US Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry has been carefully mapping out his foreign policy vision, but the response in Asia so far has been blurred.
Foreign policy analysts, commentators and media do not provide a uniform picture, but unlike government officials they are at least at liberty to speculate on what a Kerry win in November might mean for Asian trade and politics.
Those experts say some fundamental relationships, such as with China, would be unlikely to change. But other areas, such as South Asia, could find they receive less attention if Kerry's focus switched.
Others took a broader if less analytical approach.
"I don't know much about Mr. Kerry," said Din Syamsuddin, a prominent Indonesian Muslim leader. "But it seems he's more in tune with the reality of foreign affairs."
Kerry's 20 years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee indeed contrast with George W. Bush's lack of foreign policy experience before entering the White House. Yet Bush has forged ties with Asian leaders, notably Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, and balanced relations with China and Taiwan.
"If Kerry takes office, it will be quite a challenge for Taiwan," said Lin Cheng-yi of the Institute of European and American Studies at the Academia Sinica. "Compared with Bush, Kerry and his team are less friendly toward Taiwan."
In the past week Kerry has painted the broad strokes of his foreign policy priorities, including mending US alliances that he said Bush had shredded.
Kerry also said he would open direct talks with North Korea on its nuclear weapons program, rather than relying on multilateral talks that Bush considers the best way to solve the problem.
Asia presents the US with Bush's "war on terror" in Afghanistan and Pakistan, a new government in India and a boom in "offshoring" US service jobs there, concerns that China's economy could slow (and concerns that it won't), Islamic militants in Indonesia, tensions over Taiwan and questions about Japan's foreign exchange policy as well as Pyongyang's plans.
Small wonder the response to Kerry is varied. Take Pakistan.
"The marginalized political forces in Pakistan may get encouragement with the victory of Kerry and the US might raise issues relating to human rights," said Mutahir Ahmed, professor of international relations at Karachi University.
"But overall relations would remain as warm as they are, because the US needs Pakistan in its war on terror and it cannot afford to destabilize the country's armed forces, which are in control of a nuclear arsenal."
Riffat Hussain, head of Defense and Strategic Studies at Islamabad's Quaid-e-Azam University, took a different view.
"I think there is much greater understanding of Pakistan's security needs and concerns in the Bush White House than would be the case if Kerry moves in," he said. "I don't think South Asia will command that kind of attention in the Kerry White House."
A Kerry administration could bring changes in relations with South Korea, said Kim Sung-han of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security in Seoul.
"There is no doubt a Kerry presidency would be a good opportunity to bring new momentum," said Kim. "It just does not feel the same as vowing to start all over again with the same Bush administration."
But he said Washington views ties with Seoul as part of a bigger picture that includes China and Japan, adding: "Bush, for example, tended to be casual about South Korea because his administration got along so well with China."
Ren Haiting, an international strategy expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said individuals had little impact on the trend in Sino-US relations.
"There is a major trend in Sino-U.S. relations and there is a limit to the amount it is influenced by individuals," Ren said. "Of course there will be twists and turns."
China has played a major role in navigating the tortuous six-way talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions. Kerry has said he would also favor bilateral talks with Pyongyang, something the North has wanted all along.
"You have to wonder if it is something to be so utterly excited about," said Kim of Kerry's idea. "It's a double-edged sword. It's going to take some cautious thinking on whether it so clearly helpful to the North Korean nuclear problem."
Paik Hak-soon of the Sejong Institute near Seoul said Kerry had more political will to solve the crisis.
A Kerry administration might become more active in taking up trade differences with Japan, but a major change in policy was unlikely, said an official at Japan's trade ministry.
"I don't think we should overemphasize at this point things that include political rhetoric," said the official, who asked not to be identified.
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