US Has Lost Southeast Asia, but Trump Is Not to Blame

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte returns the salute of a Chinese Navy officer as he tours a Chinese Naval ship during a visit to Davao city, southern Philippines, May 1, 2017. REUTERS/Lean Daval Jr

Former US president Obama was stupid in pushing Russia and China together to form a firm alliance, which has made them bold to challenge the US.

Russia is now active in Ukraine’s and Syria’s civil wars in Europe and the Middle East, China challenged the US to fight a war in order to resist US interference in the South China Sea.

However, those are problems left behind by Obama instead of trouble caused by Trump, who simply finds that the US lacks strength to deal with Russia-China alliance that has rallied lots of countries around it.

A clear indication is that India and Pakistan have applied for membership of Russia- and China-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and will soon be accepted by SCO.

Reuters wails over US loss of Southeast Asia to China in its report “Asian nations pulled into China’s orbit as Trump puts America first” today, but fails to see its cause: The US is declining and unable to bully a rising China in the South China Sea.

What can the US do to bring ASEAN back to its side? Can it fight a war with China?

Obama’s pivot to Asia is bankrupt due to its failure to use military strength to force China to accept the arbitration award that deprives China of all its rights and interests there.

The US lacks not only financial and military resources but also wisdom in challenging China in Asia. Obama must be clearly aware that it is impossible to entirely deprive China’s rights and interests there but has tried to do so and failed. By do doing, he betrayed US weakness and caused Southeastern countries to lose confidence in the US.

What Trump shall do is but to recover US economic strength so as to be strong enough to deal with China and Russia.

Driving a wedge between China and Russia is certainly a wise diplomacy. Trump has failed to draw Russia to his side in order to achieve that. His only wise choice now is to draw China to his side to drive such a wedge. Whether he will be able to break China-Russia alliance that constitutes the greatest threat to US world leadership remains a question, but it will test Chinese and Russian leaders’ wisdom. For China the best choice is to keep the alliance while conducting win-win cooperation with the US. For that, Xi Jinping shall be very clever in applying balancing art.

Trump is realistic in his America-first policy, but lots of people including Reuters’ are still dreaming that the US can still maintain its world hegemony with declining strength in the face of strong Russia-China alliance.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which is reblogged below:

Asian nations pulled into China’s orbit as Trump puts America first

By Martin Petty and Manuel Mogato | MANILA Mon May 1, 2017 | 8:13am EDT

Across Asia, more and more countries are being pulled into Beijing’s orbit, with the timid stance adopted by Southeast Asian nations on the South China Sea at a weekend summit a clear sign this fundamental geostrategic shift is gathering momentum.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s flurry of calls at the weekend to the leaders of the Philippines, Thailand and Singapore might cheer those who fear his predecessor Barack Obama’s “pivot” to Asia has been abandoned in favor of an “America First” agenda.

But White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said the conversations were aimed at lining up Asian partners in case tensions over North Korea lead to “nuclear and massive destruction in Asia”, and mentioned no broader strategic goal.

Southeast Asian nations will need more than that to convince them the United States still has their backs.

In the meantime, some are leaning closer to China, soft-pedalling quarrels over the disputed South China Sea and angling for a slice of Beijing’s “One Belt, One Road” infrastructure investment program to compensate for the U.S. abandonment of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

The unexpected bonhomie that has emerged between Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping could give Asian countries further confidence to continue their swing toward Beijing.

“Before, most Southeast Asian states wanted to benefit from Chinese regional economic initiatives and from American pushback against China,” said Malcolm Cook, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore.

“The second part of this balance is now in question. Hence, the pressure to acquiesce to China diplomatically and on security issues is stronger.”


Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, piqued by the Obama administration’s criticism of his human rights record, last year announced his “separation” from longtime ally the United States while on a visit to Beijing.

The White House described Trump’s conversation with the firebrand Philippines leader as “very friendly” and – prompting criticism from Human Rights Watch for “effectively endorsing Duterte’s murderous war on drugs” – invited him to Washington.

But, underlining his new-found friendship with Beijing, Duterte on Monday inspected a Chinese naval ships docked at his hometown, the first visit of its kind to the Philippines in years.

Duterte, who last year put aside a legal challenge to Beijing’s sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea to start negotiating billions of dollars worth of loans and infrastructure investments, chaired the latest summit of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Manila.

Several ASEAN diplomats said China sent officials to lobby the Philippines ahead of the summit, and before the leaders had even gathered Duterte said it was pointless pressuring Beijing over its maritime activities.

An early draft of the summit statement seen by Reuters made references to land reclamation and militarization in the disputed waterway, but they were subsequently dropped, as were references to “tensions” and “escalation of activities”.

Cook said it was clear that, with the Philippines steering the summit to this conclusion, “it is no longer just Cambodia that is acting as an agent of Chinese influence in ASEAN over the South China Sea dispute”.


Thailand and Malaysia have also moved closer to China. Thailand’s relations with Washington came under strain during the Obama administration because of concerns about freedoms under its military-dominated government.

Trump invited Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha to visit Washington during their call on Sunday, but the former general’s government has its eyes elsewhere: last week it approved the first of three submarine purchases from China worth more than $1 billion.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong says Washington’s new posture has shifted Asia’s political and economic balance.

Lee, whose country, like Vietnam, has shown no signs of moving closer to Beijing, stressed to his ASEAN counterparts on Saturday that, despite Trump’s “radically different approach”, they should balance their ties between the United States and China.

Trump has said he will attend two summits in the region in November.

But Southeast Asian nations are trying to gauge how far they can still rely on Washington as a shield against Chinese assertiveness. ASEAN foreign ministers will be seeking answers at a meeting with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Washington this Thursday.

Uncertainty over Washington’s commitment, analysts say, will only draw ASEAN countries further toward China, which can lure them with cheap loans, infrastructure investments and tariff cuts, but with a risk of diminished bargaining power.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, said it was imperative for ASEAN to regain leverage by bringing Washington back into the equation and expanding the influence of Japan.

“ASEAN is in a precarious position now with the concessions, accommodation and even appeasement with China,” Thitinan said. “If China continues to be shrewd and takes ASEAN on another ride, then ASEAN will be much worse off.”

(Writing by Martin Petty and John Chalmers; Editing by Alex Richardson)


7 Comments on “US Has Lost Southeast Asia, but Trump Is Not to Blame”

  1. Joseph says:

    This Martin Petty is really petty to call ASEAN ‘timid’. As Reuters and other Western media loved to boast, America is still stronger than China. If so, challenging America demand to make a fuzz with China, is not actually being timid. Standing up against the American may make the ASEAN lose American leverage, but it gains ASEAN so much prestige already that we are nobody’s pawn. It actually demonstrates courage to risk America’s wrath standing up against the big bully. Who do the Westerners think they are to make us fighting among ourselves, to call us ‘timid’ when we refuse to do their biddings against our own freewill. In their own words, aren’t the Westerners supposed to be our ‘ally’ against China? To be our ‘protectors’ from powerful China? They come showing their big warships they claimed to be powerful, as a show of force of their military ‘might’ to support us against China, then simply left after the show is over, fearing the ‘safety’ of their servicemen. Isn’t it the English description of being ‘timid’?
    The American boasts 9 aircraft carriers armada. But so far this year, we only see one in operation, the sole USS Carl Vinson. The Vinson has been busy working overtime since January, went near SCS without even showing up there, went to Indonesia when it was supposed to be in North Korea. Who knows where it is going now that it is supposed to be in North Korea. It may go to Mediterranean by next month. It doesn’t look like the American has 9 aircraft carriers. I am not surprised if the Vinson bursts its engines soon.


    • Simon says:

      Most American carriers spend their time in dry docks undergoing maintenance. The country cannot afford to operate more than 2 or 3 at time of crises anywhere in the world. It is both a lack of money and lack of logistic resource. Earlier this year there were no American carriers in operation. America built 9 carriers because of influential defense companies with business interest needed an excuse to provide for such excess that the country cannot utilise.


    • Gon says:

      Oh, Mr Martin Petty is not just being “petty”. He knows fully well what he is saying. He chose his words wilfully and deliberately. Lying, misinfo, BS, disinfo and hype, are just par-for-the- course for these insane pychopaths. They lie to get what they want. They have no shame, no moral values and are lower than a worm. Smearing other people’s good name and reputation comes naturally to them.

      Only problem is, psychopaths like these are taking over the world and bringing society and civilization to ruins. Not just in the U.S. but all over the world especially those under Western “democracies” and “free markets”. You can see them all over South East Asia also. Nonetheless, the worst are the Americans these days.


  2. Fre Okin says:

    Duterte cleverly cooperate with China to help bring stability and prosperity to PH. The disputes over the Spratlys are really very minor. Joint development over the disputed areas make disputes manageable.

    The usual US/Japan and other ‘democracies’ story telling of China as a security threat to the SCS navigation are now seen by more and more ASEAN people as a bunch of lies to promote their own hegemonic agenda. ASEAN’s are no more fools and Duterte should be commended for taking the led to decouple themselves from dependence on US ‘security protection’ when there is really zero threat from China.

    Duterte is basically telling US PH is no more her playgroud and excessive US presence in Subic, Clark, Palawan etc are more harmful to PH security interest, not helping them. PH simply become a magnet for Chinese attack if they have too much US military presence, so Duterte wisely tell US to get lost. Fellow ASEANs are also waking up and should Limit US presence on their soil.

    In fact Duterte must be very very happy China offer to patrol the Sulu Sea as this help to reduce piracy and terrorism in Mindanao. This is brilliant Chinese strategy as the Chinese navy patrol there also help them to hunt for US submarines hanging out there. So it is a win win strategy for China and PH and other ASEAN countries, especially Malaysia see similar benefit as well. This is why Malaysia cozy up with China too.


  3. Steve says:

    Since President Duterte came to power, the turbulent waves of the SCS has subsided, otherwise the combative dog language of the Scoundrels will still be yapping from Washington to Japan, Philippines and Vietnam with FONs and pushing the boundaries of the arbitration award.. Duterte’s pivot to China and recent remarks at ASEAN has given hope to peace and unity.

    Singapore PM Lee and Thitinan Pongsudhiruk is wrong for suggesting that ASEAN should balance their ties with US, regain the leverage by bringing Washington back into the equation and expanding the Japanese influence.

    China is not taking ASEAN for a ride nor going out of it’s way to reduce US influence. It’s the United Scoundrels of America and Japanese Snakes trying to put a wedge between ASEAN and China, to reduce China’s growing influence in Asia by instigating the PCA award, FONOPs and to contain China’s rise with lies and deceit supported by the Western media. ASEAN is ASEAN, how can ASEAN be in a precarious position now with the concession, accommodation and even appeasement with China. Thitinan is a pro US shiner. His own country Thailand has moved closer with China for better economic relations and procurement of military armaments like tanks and submarines.

    Instead, it’s imperative that individual ASEAN countries should form an umbrella body with China for the sake of geopolitical diplomacy as ASEAN and ASIAN are influenced by geographical factors. SCO is a good starting point. Singapore, Vietnam and Japan can go fly the US flag across the Pacific ocean.


  4. Simon says:

    North Korea has shown how impotent America really is. Forcing its aricraft carrier to run away while Trump spreading fake news. Trump is now heaping praise on Kim Jong UN calling him a clever cookie and Kim Jong UN forces Trump to having a sit down burger on their own terms.


  5. johnleecan says:

    Singaporeans should just stop using and learning the Chinese language since they don’t want and are ashamed to be identified as Chinese anyway. Singapore youngsters hate learning the Chinese language so stop pressuring them to learn.

    These proud Singaporeans think they are better. But when other overseas Chinese who are fluent in mandarin and English take their jobs, they are utterly pissed.

    One day, Singapore will pay for their pro-America stance.

    As for the ungrateful and traitorous Vietnamese, they will definitely pay for their anti-Chinese attitudes.

    Asean will surely be better off with China. Only the stupid and narrow minded people in this age are still influenced by American and western propaganda. Reuters totally biased and make up stories are too fake to be believed by smart people and those who have common sense.