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Reader riposte: What ASEAN is good for

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COMMENTS

6 August 2012 10:31

James Wallar writes:

I would agree with Hugh White's point that ASEAN will not help the US Government very much with managing China. ASEAN does offer, however, a framework within which the US Government can constructively engage China in a regional context. Context, I would submit, is important.

This Administration has begun to use the ASEAN dialogue partner process more effectively, a process that China, Korea and Japan have used to their advantage for many years. The ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defense Ministers Meetings, and the East Asia Summit (EAS) which ASEAN directs and chairs, are part of the ASEAN framework. Discussion in these venues can help build relationships, collaboration on substantive issues, and ease tensions.

ASEAN's strength comes from others willing to work within its framework. Thus, I would agree with Kurt Campbell's proposition that the US Government should work to strengthen ASEAN as an institution. Not because ASEAN can take on China directly. But because ASEAN as an institution provides the US and Asian countries a venue in which they can work together to take advantage of the positive dynamics in the region, whether it be in China, India or Myanmar.

Much is at stake in the region. The US accepted the EAS's invitation to take a seat at the table last year. The US has a unique opportunity to work side-by-side with Asian countries in an Asian forum based on ASEAN. A strong ASEAN institution in the US Government's interest, the interest of ASEAN member countries, and Asia. Bilateral relationships will always be important. A strong regional approach offers opportunities that few dreamed about even a few years ago.

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