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ASEAN ANALYSIS  22 July 2010

U.S. looks to Asia

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs   22 July 2010

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Rather than clichés, it does seem that the foreign policy of the United States is giving more attention to Asia. Coinciding with Secretary of State Hilary Clinton’s visit to Vietnam to attend the Asean foreign ministers meeting three important events have occurred.

First, added sanctions have been imposed on North Korea, even though the reclusive state has said it would return to multilateral nuclear disarmament talks. Where has the world heard the world heard the North Korean talk but no action before? Endlessly it seems.

Secondly, the U.S. announced that it would resume ties with Indonesia’s special forces, called Kopassus, following a meeting between U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates made the announcement after meeting with Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Thursday in Jakarta.

The ties were broken more than a decade ago over the alleged human rights abuses in East Timor during the late 1990s. Australia followed the U.S. lead but resumed working with the Indonesian military in 2005.

Thirdly, although Clinton prodded Vietnam about its shoddy human rights record, she pledged even greater cooperation with Vietnam in dealing with the aftereffects of Agent Orange that still afflict about 3 million Vietnamese.

Of the three U.S. moves, the most important is the military cooperation with Indonesia. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world and has pursued a path of moderation in its Muslim practices, rather than radical views .

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono announced the death of terrorist Dulmatin ,who was responsible for the 2002 and 2005 Bali bombings, in March of this year. So Indonesia has demonstrated that it is capable of combating the Muslim terrorists on its own. Nevertheless, there is no indication that Indonesia was unhappy with the move. There is no question that Asia was neglected by the previous Bush administration. Starting with the state dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Obama administration has forcefully engaged the region.

As the president was born in the Asia-Pacific (Hawaii) and raised in Indonesia, perhaps that is a main factor in the American shift in focus to the region.

In other words, choose an effective method rather than ineffective censorship.

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