By Scott Morgan
Military Action on both the Korean Peninsula and in Vietnam seemed to have left a bitter taste for the US. That may be why the US had more of a focus on the Middle East over the last couple of decades. One of the planks in the Foreign Policy of the Obama Administration was to pivot back towards Southeast Asia. But what should the focus be?
When one hears of a pivot towards Asia one assumes the confrontation with China stands forward. But is this the only issue that could affect our policy in the region over the next decade and going forward?
Although there will be some skepticism over the pivot, the Obama Administration accomplished two things that actually make the effort worthwhile: they are cementing the alliance with Australia and realizing that Japan has unique capabilities to work with the United States as an equal partner. One evidence of this is the SOFA (Status of Forces Agreement) signed between Japan and the Philippines earlier this year.
There is another potential partner that could make any crisis more palatable to Washington and that is India. It has an emerging Navy and has been able to develop its own Ballistic Missile Submarines and Missiles. It has also designed and built its own Aircraft Carrier. It has also been conducting Joint Naval Exercises with both Japan and the United States over the last couple of years.
That is not to say there aren’t any flashpoints either. Of course there is the Hyperfocus on the Chinese Expansion into the South China Sea and its Oil and Gas Deposits. The Philippines has taken China to the International Court of the Sea in an effort to ascertain who owns the Willoughby Shoals. A Decision is expected within the next few weeks. This is not the only concern regarding that country either.
President-Elect Duterte has made several unique statements regarding the Abu Sayef Insurgency in the South of the Country. Whether or not they or any ISIS affiliated group begins a new campaign against Manila is too early to tell. However, he has asked the US if it will come to the Defense of the country under the terms of the 1951 Treaty? There is no word of a reply being sent yet. However, we should honor our pledge.
Thailand is another country with a Governance issue. Being a Prime Minister there is not a good item to place on your resume. The King is advancing in years as well and it has its own issues with a Radical Islamist Insurgency too. Moreover, it is a key ally of the United States also. Could a crisis in Thailand be a first test for the next administration?
It is a good thing to see the embargo against Vietnam lifted as well. They need new weapons to match the Chinese weapons. How this relationship plays out can be pivotal in any future crisis.
Some points to ponder for the upcoming dog and pony shows in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
(Image: Southeast Asia - Wikipedia)