John Kerry makes his first trip to Southeast Asia as secretary of state this weekend with a goal to reinforce the President’s message to ASEAN, the US pivot to Asia is real and on-going.
“There is polite skepticism in some parts of the region concerning America’s financial staying power long term,” said Ian Storey, a senior fellow at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore. “That skepticism may be misplaced given that it looks like the US economy is recovering, and the dire predictions over huge defense cutbacks may not transpire.”
However Washington has made significant economic and political overtures to SE Asia in the last couple of years. This is seen as a recognition by the Administration on the strategic and economic importance of the region.
Brunei will be Kerry’s last stop on a trip that included visits to India, Israel and Saudi Arabia. The Vietnam War veteran and five-term senator took over from Hillary Clinton in February. On her last trip to Asia as secretary of state in November, Clinton sought to allay concerns over US economic leadership with a speech in Singapore titled: “Delivering on the Promise of Economic Statecraft.” It’s widely seen that Kerry is continuing with this message.