October 17, 2013
Reputation, Commitment, and Perception in Southeastern Asia
While reading both the New York Times articles, there were constant doubts of the United States' commitment, capabilities, and reputation in Southeastern Asia. Regarding Obama's lack of appearance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting and East Asia Summit because of the government shutdown, this can harm Southeastern countries' perception on the US's capabilities to address China. Richard Heydarian, a foreign policy adviser to the Philippine Congress, has explicitly addressed this problem by stating “How can the United States be a reliable partner when President Obama can’t get his own house in order?”. In addition, Japan's Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, has increased the military budget because it fears that US might not be able to keep its treaty if conflict does occur between them and China regarding the islands. Citizens of states play an important role and are the power of the state, they, at least for the US, elect officials to represent them and provide military power, so I would agree that it's difficult for the US to hold much credibility when its citizens are not pleased with the government and therefore, would be unwilling to bother with international affairs. However, Chuck Hagel and John Kerry are there to make up for this loss. They have traveled to Japan and South Korea to strengthen ties. Not to mention many US troops already in Japan and South Korea, and naval fleets in the Pacific which acts as a sign of US's commitment to Southeastern Asia. In addition, countries in Southeastern Asia are aware of China's preference to gain territory, and because of this, it may make their choice to be influenced by China more difficult, giving the US the advantage. Because Obama wants to focus more on Southeastern asia rather than the middle east, I would say that when this government shutdown, which Kerry believes is a minor political setback, the US can then focus and become more committed to this issue.
1) Perlez, Jane, Cancellation of Trip by Obama Plays to Doubts of Asia Allies, New York Times, 4 October 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/world/asia/with-obama-stuck-in-washington-china-leader-has-clear-path-at-asia-conferences.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&ref=asia&adxnnlx=1382034820-H05mGHig%20K/DWcuOAit8fw, 17 October 2013
2) Steinhauer, Jennifer, Back in Asia, Hagel Pursues Shift to Counter China's Goals in Pacific, New York Times, 2 October 2013, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/world/asia/chuck-hagel-in-asia.html?ref=asia, 17 October 2013.