Obama in pursuit of strengthening existing allegiances in Southeast Asia


In the first trip around southeastern nations in his presidency, Barack Obama seems to be set to prove loyal to US allies in the region, establishing good viable contacts with historically supported South Korea and Japan, namely in the latter’s disputes with China over the South China sea, stresses Richard Heydarian, Manila-based academic and Asia Times writer focusing on international security and the Middle East, speaking to radio VR.

Obama notably made it clear the US would stand by South Korea, with respect to ongoing threats from North Korea, says Mr. Heydarian.

As the trip was being planned there were expectations that Obama would be assertive, like when he was on his North Asia trips. This is generally his first time in the South East, and in case of Malaysia, this is the first trip to the southeastern state by the sitting US president for nearly five decades, since Lyndon B. Johnson’s visit in 1966.

Obama’s trip was overshadowed by domestic change in Malaysia, says Mr. Heydarian, notably many criticize Obama for not visiting the country, citing human rights issues there, as well as Malaysia’s “questionable democratic credentials” that the leading party voiced concern about.

The next on the agenda is the Philippines, now debating the planned US military base buildup. Speaking about people’s reaction to the president’s visit, Richard Heydarian notes the Philippines are among the countries that has been showcasing increasingly high levels of satisfaction about Obama’s policy, many expressing frustration that the president’s visit has been delayed for so long, citing “lack of commitment to the area,” as previously he could not make it to the area.

With China’s recent most tremendous and pretty frightening rise, many pin hopes on the US-Philippines defense pact, signed Monday, just hours before Obama arrived in Manila.

The agreement will boost the American troop presence in the Southeast Asian nation, seeking to counter China’s assertiveness in among others well disputed South China sea waters.

As it was agreed upon by Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg, the US doesn’t intend to establish a permanent military presence in the country, Goldberg said at the ceremony.


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