Obama Builds on Bush's Asia Success

Obama Builds on Bush's Asia Success

HONOLULU, EAST-WEST WIRE — This week Barack Obama begins his first trip to Asia as U.S. head of state. His visit to Singapore for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting plus additional stops in Japan, China and South Korea offer an opportunity for the president to give further dynamism to America's relationships with this vital part of the world.

 

In visiting Asia, Obama has many assets to draw upon. Although his adult experience in Asia is relatively limited, he is the first U.S. president to have actually lived in the region and to have a genuine Asia-Pacific orientation from his earliest years. He is widely popular in the region, especially his boyhood home of Indonesia, where according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, positive images of the United States climbed to 63 percent in 2009 from 37 percent last year.

Obama's way to the region has also been paved by two successful visits by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in February chose Asia for her first overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat and in July stopped by a meeting of regional foreign ministers in Thailand, where she signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The president also inherited a quite successful Asia policy from his predecessor. The new administration has added a few twists, expanding high level dialogues with China, opening a dialogue with Burma and taking a more relaxed attitude, at least so far, toward North Korea. Human rights rhetoric has toned down under Obama, but the basic parameters of U.S. Asia policy have remained the same.

The APEC meeting provides an opportunity for the president to meet again with some of the key world leaders he has already met twice this year at Group of 20 events and to connect for the first time with others.

The economy remains the No. 1 item on the APEC agenda, with a need to successfully exit the regimen of temporary recovery packages now in place and to rebalance both government spending and trans-Pacific economic imbalances.

In Singapore it will be the first-ever summit of an American president with the heads of ASEAN, the 10-member grouping now heavily courted by China, Japan, India and Europe. A summit had been promised two years ago by President George W. Bush, but never carried out.

The bilateral visits that make up the rest of the Asia trip show respect for the three major economies of Northeast Asia — China, Japan and South Korea — which collectively represent the most important part of the world for the economic and security future of the U.S.

With these obligatory stops, Obama has had to put off a homecoming trip to Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child, but he has promised Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that he will come on another occasion when he can spend more time and bring his children with him.

In China, Japan and Korea, the administration wants to facilitate collaborative work in areas such as climate change, energy technology, educational policies and exchange, and economic support in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In all three countries, the foreign counterparts will be seeking clues to the future of U.S. trade policy, an area in which all have deep interest but which has not yet been clearly defined by the new U.S. administration.

Japan is the U.S.'s foremost ally in the region, but it also represents probably the most challenging stop for the president. The Hatoyama government, only two months old, is still going through growing pains in sorting out its policies and its relationship with the established bureaucracy. Quite understandably, the new government also wants to review policies that it inherited from its predecessor and criticized during the general election campaign, including agreements related to the future of U.S. military facilities in Okinawa.

The president can appreciate these political necessities and needs to be both respectful and patient, but at the same time he will want to explain U.S. interests and encourage the Japanese to make their reviews expeditiously.

What makes this stop especially tricky is that various factions, both in and out of government, will be trying to spin the U.S. positions in ways that favor their own domestic agendas.

With China, Obama will be building on an Economic and Strategic Dialogue that began in July. The main thrust of his administration's approach is to deepen efforts begun by the Bush administration to develop Sino-American cooperation on regional and global issues. Obama will hope to advance progress in the weaker dimensions of the relationship, such as military-to-military dialogue, as well as reduce gaps in dealing with such problems as the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

In Seoul, North Korea will dominate discussions. The North Koreans sought to test the new administration early on with a series of provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, boasts of a long-denied uranium-enrichment program, and the detention of two American journalists.

These crude tactics partly backfired, and North Korea has shifted toward a more friendly approach since President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang at the beginning of July to free the journalists. There have also been recent improvements in North-South Korean relations. The two presidents need to talk about tactics, while strongly reaffirming their ultimate goal, the denuclearization of the North.

Despite the tricky elements, the overall tone of the trip is likely to be highly positive. Asian leaders are sizing up the new U.S. president, and they clearly want to be in his good graces. New initiatives are likely to be announced throughout the trip — testimony to the preparations undertaken by an experienced Obama foreign policy team as well as the legacy of past policies.

Charles E. Morrison, Ph.D., is president of the East-West Center.

We welcome your opinions. Click to send a message to the editor.

The Japan Times (C) All rights reserved

 

//'); //]]>

 

//'); //]]> //'); //]]>

 

Japan Info Guide Links for living in Japan //'); //]]>

Language study

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

Upgrade your nihongo before the next proficiency test

Business

Business support in Tokyo for foreign affiliated firms

Guidance and info from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Transportation

Tokyo Transfer Guide

Metro resource for fares, travel time and transfers

Ready to expand your horizons and study in Japan?

Here's your resource for locating the educational institutions and curriculum best suited to you and your goals.

Real Estate Guide

Find apartment and homes that best suit your lifestyle, income and time frame in Japan.

 

new TWTR.Widget({ version: 2, type: 'profile', rpp: 4, interval: 4000, width: 'auto', height: 200, theme: { shell: { background: '#c2dbf2', color: '#050105' }, tweets: { background: '#ffffff', color: '#000000', links: '#0d45de' } }, features: { scrollbar: false, loop: true, live: false, hashtags: true, timestamp: true, avatars: false, behavior: 'default' } }).render().setUser('japantimes').start();

 

 

About us |  Work for us |  Contact us |  Privacy policy |  Link policy |  Registration FAQ Advertise in japantimes.co.jp. This site has been optimized for modern browsers. Please make sure that Javascript is enabled in your browser's preferences. The Japan Times Ltd. All rights reserved.

_uacct = "UA-337614-2"; _udn="search.japantimes.co.jp"; _userv=2; urchinTracker();

In visiting Asia, Obama has many assets to draw upon. Although his adult experience in Asia is relatively limited, he is the first U.S. president to have actually lived in the region and to have a genuine Asia-Pacific orientation from his earliest years. He is widely popular in the region, especially his boyhood home of Indonesia, where according to the Pew Global Attitudes Project, positive images of the United States climbed to 63 percent in 2009 from 37 percent last year.

Obama's way to the region has also been paved by two successful visits by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who in February chose Asia for her first overseas trip as the top U.S. diplomat and in July stopped by a meeting of regional foreign ministers in Thailand, where she signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The president also inherited a quite successful Asia policy from his predecessor. The new administration has added a few twists, expanding high level dialogues with China, opening a dialogue with Burma and taking a more relaxed attitude, at least so far, toward North Korea. Human rights rhetoric has toned down under Obama, but the basic parameters of U.S. Asia policy have remained the same.

The APEC meeting provides an opportunity for the president to meet again with some of the key world leaders he has already met twice this year at Group of 20 events and to connect for the first time with others.

The economy remains the No. 1 item on the APEC agenda, with a need to successfully exit the regimen of temporary recovery packages now in place and to rebalance both government spending and trans-Pacific economic imbalances.

In Singapore it will be the first-ever summit of an American president with the heads of ASEAN, the 10-member grouping now heavily courted by China, Japan, India and Europe. A summit had been promised two years ago by President George W. Bush, but never carried out.

The bilateral visits that make up the rest of the Asia trip show respect for the three major economies of Northeast Asia — China, Japan and South Korea — which collectively represent the most important part of the world for the economic and security future of the U.S.

With these obligatory stops, Obama has had to put off a homecoming trip to Indonesia, where he spent several years as a child, but he has promised Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono that he will come on another occasion when he can spend more time and bring his children with him.

In China, Japan and Korea, the administration wants to facilitate collaborative work in areas such as climate change, energy technology, educational policies and exchange, and economic support in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In all three countries, the foreign counterparts will be seeking clues to the future of U.S. trade policy, an area in which all have deep interest but which has not yet been clearly defined by the new U.S. administration.

Japan is the U.S.'s foremost ally in the region, but it also represents probably the most challenging stop for the president. The Hatoyama government, only two months old, is still going through growing pains in sorting out its policies and its relationship with the established bureaucracy. Quite understandably, the new government also wants to review policies that it inherited from its predecessor and criticized during the general election campaign, including agreements related to the future of U.S. military facilities in Okinawa.

The president can appreciate these political necessities and needs to be both respectful and patient, but at the same time he will want to explain U.S. interests and encourage the Japanese to make their reviews expeditiously.

What makes this stop especially tricky is that various factions, both in and out of government, will be trying to spin the U.S. positions in ways that favor their own domestic agendas.

With China, Obama will be building on an Economic and Strategic Dialogue that began in July. The main thrust of his administration's approach is to deepen efforts begun by the Bush administration to develop Sino-American cooperation on regional and global issues. Obama will hope to advance progress in the weaker dimensions of the relationship, such as military-to-military dialogue, as well as reduce gaps in dealing with such problems as the nuclear programs of Iran and North Korea.

In Seoul, North Korea will dominate discussions. The North Koreans sought to test the new administration early on with a series of provocations, including nuclear and missile tests, boasts of a long-denied uranium-enrichment program, and the detention of two American journalists.

These crude tactics partly backfired, and North Korea has shifted toward a more friendly approach since President Bill Clinton visited Pyongyang at the beginning of July to free the journalists. There have also been recent improvements in North-South Korean relations. The two presidents need to talk about tactics, while strongly reaffirming their ultimate goal, the denuclearization of the North.

Despite the tricky elements, the overall tone of the trip is likely to be highly positive. Asian leaders are sizing up the new U.S. president, and they clearly want to be in his good graces. New initiatives are likely to be announced throughout the trip — testimony to the preparations undertaken by an experienced Obama foreign policy team as well as the legacy of past policies.

We welcome your opinions. Click to send a message to the editor.

 

 

 

Language study

The Japanese-Language Proficiency Test

Upgrade your nihongo before the next proficiency test

Business

Business support in Tokyo for foreign affiliated firms

Guidance and info from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government

Transportation

Tokyo Transfer Guide

Metro resource for fares, travel time and transfers

Read Full Article »
Comment
Show commentsHide Comments

Related Articles