What is significant about the series of online summits held this year by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is that the United States participated. This is what America should do.
“Our partnership is essential in maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific,” said U.S. President Joe Biden at the ASEAN Summit on Oct. 26.
At the East Asia Summit (EAS) on Oct. 27, the U.S. President criticized China’s recent actions in relation to Taiwan, describing them as “coercive.” He expressed concern over “threats to the rules-based order” with China’s unbridled maritime advancement in the South China Sea, including its moves to create military bases.
China’s hegemonic actions disrupt regional peace and stability. Neighboring countries must work together to deter the PRC.
Biden’s remarks [at the summit] contained nothing dramatically new. However, it is significant that the United States is aiming to spearhead deterrence against China through multilateral diplomacy by meeting with ASEAN.
At the U.S.-ASEAN Summit, the President stressed that his administration places priority on Southeast Asia. At the EAS, in which Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang also participated, the United States criticized China and called on America’s allies and friends to participate in deterrence against China.
Like the U.S., Japan also advocates a “free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Prime Minister Kishida Fumio participated in the Japan-ASEAN, the Japan-China-South Korea-ASEAN, and the EAS gatherings, and it is natural that he made statements that echoed those of the American leader, including expressing concern about the situation in the East and South China Seas.
The EAS is composed of a total of 18 countries, including ASEAN members, Japan, the United States, China, South Korea, Australia, India, Russia, and New Zealand. These are the countries that make up the Indo-Pacific, including China and Russia, two countries that cause instability in the region. We would like to see the cooperation between Japan and the United States at the EAS strengthened with a view to a future time when face-to-face meetings are held.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump never once attended the regional summit held by ASEAN. In 2017 during his first year as President, he skipped the EAS and left early from Manila, where the summit was held. This action left the impression that the U.S. “does not take Asia seriously.”
What is worrisome is that China moved to strengthen its influence in Southeast Asian countries by offering economic assistance during this “U.S. absence.” Japan also bears responsibility for allowing this.
How can we cooperate with ASEAN to deter China? Japan and the United States will need to coordinate their views.