Walk the line: SE Asia’s US-China balancing act
Southeast Asia benefits from tension between US and China, up to a point
As the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year, China’s growing influence, and the resulting rebalance of power, poses both great opportunities and grave risks for the region. ASEAN’s inability to realize significant military integration or cooperation on security issues and territorial disputes has left individual countries standing helpless in the shadow of a rising China. That leaves members little choice but to lean on the US to push back as China encroaches on competing national interests, but moving too close to the US risks angering an increasingly assertive China. One need look no further than the reaction to South Korea’s deployment of THAAD to see potential economic consequences. As Johanna Son writes for the Bangkok Post, a dramatic shift to greater US military presence in the region could also increase the risk of miscalculation and violent conflict.