Some of the most experienced Asian and US foreign policy experts want the new US president to give urgent attention to Asia amid waning US influence and a shifting power balance in the region.
The Asian experts warned in candid reports compiled by the US-based Asia Foundation that although the US has been the regional power in Asia since the end of World War II, there was now uncertainty about the relevance of its power given current regional dynamics.
“The United States may still hold the balance of power in Asia, but does this mean that the US necessarily holds the most influence?” they asked in one report.
“Gradually emerging is a multilateral Asian architecture based on a series of increasingly shared norms around interstate relations and security,” said former South Korean foreign minister Han Sung-joo, Singapore envoy Tommy Koh and former Indian National Security Advisory Board member C. Raja Mohan.
They compiled the report after chairing workshops in the region that sought feedback on US policies in Asia.
The US experts, on the other hand, wanted the successor of US President George W. Bush to pay “urgent attention” to Asia.
“Size matters and they have it,” said former US under secretary of state Michael Armacost and ex-assistant secretary of state J. Stapleton Roy.
Asia is home to more than half the world’s population and six of the 10 largest countries, produces more than 30 percent of global exports and controls a much larger share of the world’s savings pool, they said.
While the US has been preoccupied with the situation in the Middle East, “the Asian balance has been shifting quietly, if inexorably, in the direction of others, they said. “China, Japan, India, and Russia are casting a longer shadow.”
In addition, they said, it was in Asia that the interests of the great powers intersect most directly, and the most consequential emerging powers — China and India — are located.
“We must devote to Asian issues the attention and resources their intrinsic importance to the United States demands,” they said.
US policy to Asia has scarcely been mentioned by the presumptive presidential candidates, Democratic Senator Barack Obama and Republican Senator John McCain, and the region east of Afghanistan has not been on their travel itineraries.
“We strongly recommend that you put Asia onto the agendas for the upcoming political conventions,” Asia Foundation president Douglas Bereuter said in a statement sent this week to Republican and Democratic foreign policy campaign advisors accompanying reports by the Asian and US experts.
“Good foreign policy to Asia is critical for the next administration — and should be addressed by the platforms during the conventions” of the two parties ahead of the November elections, Bereuter said.
The Asian experts also wanted the new US administration to “actively support a regional architecture” in rapidly growing Asia, including signing a non-aggression accord of the ASEAN.
“There is a growing sense of Asian regionalism; if the US continues to take a narrow perspective on this issue, it stands to lose influence in the region,” they said.