BEIJING, Nov. 22 (Xinhuanet) -- Regional powers and the United States converged on the Indonesian resort island of Bali for the Association of South East Asian Nations and East Asia summits. They discussed a wide-range of issues, from how to save the global economy, to regional security.
The talks ended with calls for greater cooperation between all parties. But the US’s presence, as part of its push to be Back in Asia, and its recent deals with some Asian countries, has sparked concern in China about whether it maybe sidelined.
Tension on a peaceful island - Leaders from 18 nations gathered in Bali in the spirit of cooperation. Susilo Bambang Yudho Yono, Indonesian President, said, “We are aware that if we fail to cooperate amongst ourselves, most of the fundamental problems will not be resolved. If we only priorities our own interests, we may face intense situations which are not healthy.”
But the atmosphere was already intense, mostly because of the presence of a new participant at Saturday’s East Asia Summit: The United States.
Though a surprise meeting between US President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiaobao focused mainly on economy, other issues were causing strain.
Obama made a nine-day trip to Asia, as part of his administration’s strategy to re-engage with the region. And it seemed he was trying to team up with other countries to put pressure on China.
Obama said, “It’s important for them to play by the rules of the road and in fact, help underwrite the rules that have allowed so much remarkable economic progress to be made over the last several decades.”
The US’s latest push to re-engage in Asia began even before Obama left American soil. During the APEC leaders meeting on November 11th, he announced a framework to expand a free-trade zone among Asia-Pacific countries. One that does not include the Asia’s biggest economy: China.
Then, whilst in Australia, Obama announced an expanded military alliance with the country. While US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the US would also boost military cooperation with the Philippines.
And then in Bali, Obama announced he would send Clinton to Myanmar, making her the official in her position to visit the country in more than 50 years.
Obama said, “We want to seize what could be a historic opportunity for progress and make it clear that if Burma continues to travel down the road of democratic reform, it can forge a new relationship with the United States of America”
Economically, China has become a driving force in boost the regional economy. It has offered a helping hand to Asia’s smaller countries to survive the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997.
But a growing number of countries have expressed concerns that Asia’s rising dragon is becoming too powerful. Territorial disputes between China and some of its neighbors over the South China Sea have intensified in the past few months.
China earlier opposed bringing up the issue of the strategic water dispute at the summits. And Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao reaffirmed on Saturday China’s stance on the South China Sea, stressing the East Asia summit was not the right forum to discuss the issue.
As the US moves ahead with its Back in Asia Strategy, many are wondering what its true intentions are towards China: A genuine effort for increased cooperation, or an attempt at containment?