Insights and Analysis

Come 2009, What Should U.S. Asia Policy Be?

June 11, 2008

By John J. Brandon

With our election cycle, every four years American foreign policy has a fresh opportunity to be re-examined and re-strategized. Come 2009, U.S. policy towards Asia will continue to directly affect 60% of the world’s population. Many Asians tell me they’re concerned that decisions affecting them, and their countries’ security, are being made unilaterally in Washington. Many say they believe the Global War on Terror tops the U.S. foreign policy agenda, trumping all else. Asian policymakers I’ve spoken to say repeatedly they have little input in decisions made in the U.S. and that their domestic interests are rarely if ever taken into account. Given the political, economic, and security interests of the U.S. in the region, it is essential that both Americans and Asians contribute to solving problems of mutual concern.

Over the past few months, we have collected leading U.S. foreign policy experts’ ideas on whether U.S. policy towards Asia — including such issues as the environment, energy, Pakistan and China — should be overhauled, fine-tuned, or untouched in 2009. Then, we flipped the process and gathered leading international relations scholars across Asia into strategy groups in India, Korea, and Singapore so they could candidly share their views on what U.S. foreign policy in their home regions should be. This data is right now being compiled into a comprehensive volume titled, America’s Role in Asia: Asian and American Perspectives, which will be released in September 2008, pairing unique perceptions with concrete recommendations for U.S. policy going forward.

In Asia, Ambassador Han Sung-joo, (President of the ASAN Institute), Ambassador Tommy Koh (Chairman of the Institute of Policy Studies and Ambassador-at-Large in Singapore), and Dr. C. Raja Mohan (Professor at the Rajanathan School of International Studies) — led roundtables in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and Northeast Asia regions.

In the U.S., two of America’s most distinguished diplomats — Ambassador Michael Armacost (Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan and the Philippines and Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs) and Ambassador J. Stapleton Roy (Former U.S. Ambassador to China, Indonesia, and Singapore) — led a group of foreign policy and Asian specialists with combined experience of hundreds of years to provide their assessment of challenges and opportunities facing a new U.S. administration in the Asia-Pacific region.

After months of analysis and debate, 18 essays on recommendations for bilateral and transnational issues between Asia and the U.S. — including stability on the Korean peninsula, conflict in Afghanistan, the Global War on Terror, energy security, environmental degradation, and trade, investment and finance — have been collected and are in the editing stages. For more information on the book before its September release, please contact me at [email protected]

John Brandon is Director of The Asia Foundation’s International Relations program and head of America’s Role in Asia.


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