US Secretary of State Antony Blinken visits Indonesia today as the first stop of his Southeast Asia tour before continuing on to Malaysia and Thailand.
Blinken is expected to address health, investment and infrastructure in the Indo-pacific with his counterparts. Blinken’s maiden voyage to the region follows his comments at the UN General Assembly in September promising a new strategy supporting democracy and security in the region.
The top diplomat’s trip signifies an intensified US effort to counter China’s growing regional influence and posturing in the South China Sea. ASEAN, which has historically hedged between the US and China, is starting to feel China’s military pressure as it demonstrates more expeditionary military capabilities—such as the sorties around Taiwan. In addition to participating in multiple high-level diplomatic talks, the US is crafting an economic framework to enhance cooperation with ASEAN on issues such as the digital economy, supply chain resiliency, clean energy, and trade.
While the Southeast Asia tour offers promise for future US-ASEAN cooperation, the memory of a US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the establishment of the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership may complicate institutionalizing any future multilateral trade or defense agreements.
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Acadia is an analyst on the Current Developments team and regular contributor to the Daily Brief. She focuses on authoritarianism and security in the Middle East.