Faced with a government shutdown and a debt default crisis, President Obama canceled an extended visit to Southeast Asia. While Secretary of State Kerry filled in for the president at these venues and most regional leaders expressed understanding, several also expressed anxiety over Washington’s ability to carry out a consistent policy toward Southeast Asia.
Bilateral interactions in the final months of 2013 were characteristically active. Secretary of State John Kerry attended the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting and the East Asia Summit in President Obama’s place, and met President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang. There were several military exchanges, including the first-ever live drill involving members of the US and Chinese armed forces.
Prime Minister Abe continued to focus on the economy but also introduced diplomatic and defense strategies as his first year in office came to a close. The US and Japanese governments participated in TPP trade negotiations and bilateral talks but could not resolve differences on agricultural liberalization and market access for automobiles.
2013 ended with a series of self-inflicted wounds. President Obama, with a huge assist from the US Congress, reinforced apprehensions about the US commitment to the region by skipping both the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting. Setting an unreachable yearend goal to finalize the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was another in the series.
The US response to China’s call for a “new type of major country relationship” remains one of the most controversial and misunderstood components of the Obama administration’s China policy. An immediate problem is the glaring disconnect between the ways in which policymakers in Washington and Beijing are interpreting the concept.
Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo passed the one-year mark of his term in office Dec. 26, and the two-year mark if one includes his previous term from Sept. 2006-Sept. 2007 – a bar only three others have passed since 1989. Abe hopes to continue serving until the next mandated national elections in July and December 2016.
While New Year assessments of Asia often stress US policy challenges, the Obama administration’s rebalancing actually fits well with Asian regional dynamics. US strengths look even stronger when compared with China’s recent approaches.
Issues & Insights is Pacific Forum’s monograph series, with volumes published on a monthly or bimonthly basis. These in-depth analyses cover a range of topics and are available for free at PacificForum.org.
The comprehensive 2013 index of each PacNet newsletter is listed below, with hyperlinks. Pacific Forum CSIS looks forward to continuing to publish timely insight and analysis in 2013.
Since 1990, the United Nations has annually marked International Migrants Day on December 18, in an effort to promote a dialogue on the opportunities and challenges simultaneously posed by and facing migrant populations.