The impact of Obama's spring East Asia visit

By Wei Hongxia
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 24, 2014
Adjust font size:
 Caught up in the Asia Pacific [By Yang Yongliang/]

Caught up in the Asia Pacific [By Yang Yongliang/]

U.S. President Barack Obama embarks on his visit to Asia in April. The four countries on his agenda are Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK), the Philippines, and Malaysia. Announced by the White House in February, the visit has drawn a spate of responses -- some see it as Obama's gesture to make up for his absence from the APEC summit held last October, while some interpret it as a move to advance his rebalancing strategy in East Asia. What is the U.S. president's objective for this trip and what kind of balance and effect is he set to achieve?

Balancing Japan and South Korea, backing up the Philippines

South Korea was reportedly not on the original list of places to visit during Obama's trip, but later added due to the ROK's diplomatic lobbying. The U.S. president's visit even became a cause for contention between the ROK and Japan, and Obama's stopover in Japan was eventually shortened due to the Korean invitation.

Obama's trip covers both Japan and the ROK, attempting to seek a balance between the two nations. Since Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe returned to power, the relationship between Tokyo and Seoul has been as strained as the relationship between Tokyo and Beijing. Abe's visit to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine last December not only drew condemnations from South Korea and China, but also exacerbated the relations between Japan and the other two nations.

Abe's warming to his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye at several high-level diplomatic occasions was greeted with indifference. The South Korea media highlighted that any cooperation between the two nations would not be possible if Japan did not face up to history correctly.

Furthermore, though Japan is displaying enthusiasm towards Obama by lifting the level of diplomatic treatment, Abe's deviation from a correct attitude towards history and other disputable issues puts Uncle Sam in an awkward situation. It is not likely that the United States can play a fully mediating role in the relations between the ROK and Japan, and between China and Japan.

Obama's visit to Japan will also highlight the US-Japan security alliance, just as his predecessors did since 1990s, which will cause displeasure on the part of China.

In addition to the thorny issues in Japan and the ROK, Obama will restart talks about opening the Subic Bay to the U.S. navy during his visit to the Philippines. The U.S. intends to take control of the military base, which will go against the constitution of the Philippines. Whether Obama's visit will overcome the deadlock remains uncertain. But what is certain is that the Philippines will have more confidence in its disputes with China over maritime issues after Obama's visit.

Follow on Twitter and Facebook to join the conversation.
1   2   Next  

Print E-mail Bookmark and Share

Go to Forum >>0 Comment(s)

No comments.

Add your comments...

  • User Name Required
  • Your Comment
  • Enter the words you see:   
    Racist, abusive and off-topic comments may be removed by the moderator.
Send your storiesGet more from