In signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Bangladesh on the return of Rohingya refugees, Myanmar portrayed the agreement as “a win-win situation for both countries” and a victory for neighbours resolving their differences without the interference of outsiders. But the deal may also reveal that wider conflicts are brewing.
The Trump administration’s evolving UN policy is a case study in how policymaking in the administration remains a work in progress amid competing worldviews, absent or unclear guidance, and an idiosyncratic president. There are deep ideological divisions within the White House about America’s role in the world.
If the Trump–Turnbull call illustrated the operatic nature of the early Trump administration, then the Trump–Abe long weekend presented an alternative picture of US alliance management under the new President.
America’s presence in the Asia-Pacific is evolving beyond its traditional alliance network into a web of alliances, new partnerships and creative linkages. How it continues to transform will depend on the outcome of the US presidential election and how the new president moves forward after a bruising and domestically introspective campaign.
Donald Trump’s recent comments on America’s alliances, coinciding with the Republican convention last week, have further raised the anxiety levels of US allies about Washington’s global role after the US presidential election.
The ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague against China’s claim on the South China Sea in a case brought before the court by the Philippines should prima facie have remained a bilateral matter between the litigants. In reality, however, it has become an exemplar of China’s role in the ongoing contest to determine the world order. China’s shrill and bellicose response during and after the ruling has only served to heighten alarm over Beijing’s intentions and behaviour among all the major powers, including India.
The United States’ presence in the Indo-Asia-Pacific is transforming from a traditional alliance network (of Australia, Japan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand) into a web of strengthened alliances, new partnerships and creative linkages.
Washington must manage this transformation carefully, so its alliance network maintains a deterrent function and reassures allies, but does not exacerbate USChina tensions.
Japan, European countries, and the United States have a common interest in boosting United Nations peace operations. Japan has been a prominent supporter of a U.S. initiative to encourage participation in peacekeeping operations, but to date, Tokyo’s follow-up has been constructive but limited. For Tokyo and its allies, ensuring that the UN can handle today’s ugly crises is an unavoidable task.