Are Things Falling Apart For US-Asia Foreign Policy?

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Zachary Keck via The Diplomat,

Although Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Northeast Asia this week will likely focus on defusing tensions over China’s new Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), this is hardly the only issue plaguing the U.S. in Asia.

In general, U.S. Asia policy during the second Obama administration has lacked focus as senior officials have been preoccupied with domestic and other international challenges. Elizabeth Economy rightly notes that the administration has recently “unleashed a barrage of Asia-related speeches, commentaries, and initiatives that should reassure all concerned that the region will remain a centerpiece of the new foreign policy team’s agenda.”

This includes Treasury Secretary Jack Lew visiting the region last month, Biden’s trip this month and Obama’s planned visit in April. Additionally, as Economy points out, National Security Advisor Susan Rice gave her first Asia-oriented speech last month, and Washington promptly reacted to China creating an East China Sea ADIZ. The U.S. military also responded admirably to the typhoon in the Philippines, and the U.S. has also been active in the region-wide discussions over restarting the six party talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.

While these are commendable, I differ from Economy in attributing too much importance to them. Moreover, a number of other issues suggest that the administration continues to give inadequate attention to the Asia-Pacific, and the results it is getting reflect this relative neglect.

Probably the most encouraging sign about the Obama administration’s commitment to Asia right now are the number of senior-level trips to the region. Lew’s trip was especially notable given that the economic components of the rebalance are lagging behind the military aspects, and the fact that the trip came on the heels of China’s Third Plenum. Biden’s trip is also encouraging because of his familiarity with Chinese President Xi Jinping that dates back to Xi’s time as vice president. However, as noted above, this trip is likely to be one-dimensional given the tensions surrounding the ADIZ.

And while presidential attention is always a positive—time being a president’s most valuable resource—Obama’s upcoming trip hardly signifies a strong presidential commitment to Asia. After all, the trip is merely meant to make up for the trip Obama cancelled in October because of the government shutdown. This is inevitably an inadequate replacement for the October trip given that there will be no regional conferences for Obama to attend in April. Moreover, it is not encouraging that Obama took six months to reschedule that cancelled trip.

Secretary of State John Kerry was sent to the region as Obama’s replacement back in October. Kerry later had to cancel the Philippines portion of the trip due to an upcoming storm. He did however promise to return to the Philippines “within a month or so.” Some Filipino lawmakers questioned the fact that Kerry had cancelled the trip at all, claiming that it could’ve proceeded without incident. These concerns can only have increased now that it has almost been two months since Kerry’s first trip was cancelled, and the State Department has yet to announce when the rescheduled one will occur. Of course, the massive typhoon in the Philippines last month may account for the delay in rescheduling the trip. At the same time, some might think that this event would make Kerry’s visit all the more urgent. Moreover, it’s hard not to be suspicious that Kerry’s intense involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan haven’t also been behind the delay.

The senior-level trips also hide other troubling personnel issues in the region. For example, as previously noted, Obama nominated Caroline Kennedy to be the ambassador to Japan back in April. It was only in the middle of last month that she arrived in Tokyo. According to The Japan Times, the previous U.S. ambassador left the country back in August, meaning that a three month vacancy occurred at a crucial time. Furthermore, however capable Kennedy may be as a person, she is a political appointee who lacks any kind of diplomatic experience. This is troubling given the kind of high stakes crises she will have to navigate while in Tokyo, with China’s new ADIZ being a telling example.

Her job will be made more difficult by the fact that she’s likely to not have a counterpart in Beijing to help mediate the rising tensions between China and Japan. As The Diplomat previously reported, the current U.S. Ambassador to China, Gary Locke, has tendered his resignation. According to his public resignation statement, his family is already back in the United States and he plans to join them in early 2014. President Obama has yet to nominate Locke’s successor. If Kennedy’s experience is any guide, it could take seven months from the time the president nominates that person for them to arrive in Beijing. Even if s/he is nominated today, that means there could very well be a six month period in which the U.S. does not have an ambassador to China.

More generally, at least from the outside, there does not appear to be a senior level official who is the Obama administration’s point person on Asia or even China. Many felt that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Tom Donilon played that role during the first Obama administration.

Clinton’s successor, John Kerry, has clearly marked the Middle East as the region that will consume the bulk of his attention. Donilon’s successor, Susan Rice, has a long, distinguished career in U.S. foreign policy, none of which centers on the Asia-Pacific. As Economy noted, Rice did recently make her first Asia-centric speech as national security advisor. While commendable, as Economy also points out, it offered little in the way of new ideas or policies beyond announcing Obama’s upcoming trip. This hardly suggests a strong interest or commitment to the region. Moreover, Rice became national security advisor on July 1, 2013. The fact that she waited almost five months to give an Asia-centric speech hardly suggests that she will be the administration’s point person on Asia.

But the most troubling aspect of the administration’s neglect of Asia doesn’t have to do with personnel but rather with policy. In particularly, it has to do with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the centerpiece of America’s economic rebalance to Asia. The U.S. and its future TPP partners had set a deadline of the end of 2013 for reaching agreement on the text of the treaty. There are no signs that this deadline will be met.

Moreover, as previously reported, 173 members of Congress have come out in opposition to granting the president fast track trade promotion authority, which would allow the president to submit the TPP to Congress for an up-and-down vote without any amendments. Many analysts believe that the administration will not be able to get the TPP through the U.S. Congress unless it has this authority. Yet, there are no signs of a renewed commitment from the administration to lobby Congress on the TPP or fast track trade promotion authority.

This all becomes especially problematic given that 2014 is an election year, which makes it especially unlikely that Congress will ratify any FTA. Moreover, ASEAN is likely to be preoccupied next year with putting all the pieces in place to launch its free trade zone by the beginning of 2015. The best-case scenario for the TPP at this point is that the draft text is finalized in time for President Obama’s trip to the region in April, and that the White House can get a lame duck Congress to ratify it after the November elections. This is hardly impossible but it will require a degree of commitment to the treaty that the administration has hitherto not demonstrated.

In sum, while the Obama administration has given Asia more attention in recent weeks, this commitment will have to be sustained if the U.S. is going to be successful in the region.

Spot the difference?

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
dirtyfiles's picture

don't see any ...oh wait

mickeyman's picture

Katy Perry is a replicant.

JohnnyBriefcase's picture

I'm sure Katy Perry is a horrible person but GOD DAMN!! that's fine.


I'd also settle for the asian chick.

FinalCollapse's picture

The Asian chick is much, much prettier.

JohnnyBriefcase's picture

She is probably a more pleasant person to be around as well.

wintermute's picture

<---- West is best

<---- Eastern promise

Oracle of Kypseli's picture

She looks like Shinawatra the PM of Thailand. Maybe several years ago.

jeff montanye's picture

anyone else's screen blanking out constantly here?

BoNeSxxx's picture

I didn't know that was Katy Perry.  In fact, I have no idea who Katy Perry is or why I should care.

This is a good thing... means I am not watching TV or listening to garbage or whatever else I would need to be doing in order to recognize a fake plastic invented personality.

remain calm's picture

Katie Perry tits are not real. They are inflated by external forces. Some day they will fall down and she will realize she would have been better off to have done nothing at all. She will have to keep getting bigger and bigger implants, till one day they will explode during a photo shoot. and realize that the tempoary excitement she created was not worth the long term consequences and pain.

Dixie Rect's picture

Will this happen by way of planes flying into her mams, or will it be controlled demolition?

Nostradumbass's picture

I was just thinking the same thing myself.

tarsubil's picture

Katy Perry is a "singer."

If you listen to the above link, this should help with recovery.

mickeyman's picture

I can't help it. I have kids.

Ying-Yang's picture

Jeff try another browser... Firefox, Chrome.

Dr. No's picture

The down arrow was for the encouraged use of Chrome.

johnQpublic's picture

surprised so many folks know who the big titted chick is

never seen her before....

over the long haul i'd take the asian

titties for a one nighter

ElvisDog's picture

Sorry, big tits trumps slightly prettier face. Advantage - USA

sodbuster's picture

You can always get the Asian babe some store - bought titties!

Fiat Envy's picture

Those tits are gonna be hanging around her knees before you know it.

Rakshas's picture

Poise counts, Katy has her points I'm sure - not that there is anything wrong with that - but generally the Asian women I've met are far more open and friendly than the western counterparts. Don't mean to generalize but actually just about all of the Asian people I work with are extremely polite and friendly - to think I was going to turn down this assignment in favor of Isreal - thank god for coin flips.  Besides how sexy will KP be when those things drop ..................... just sayin'

SmackDaddy's picture

What's it matter?  You can't get pussy on any continent.

JoBob's picture

I married an Asian chick and it has been perfect!

Once you've tried Asian, goodbye Caucasian!

Headbanger's picture

Left photo:  With growth hormones in food supply

Right photo:  Without growth hormones in food supply.

Sudden Debt's picture





ParkAveFlasher's picture

Baby, you're a fact I have a sparkler in my pants for KP.  The other broad can cook me dumplings but I know I'll still be hungry a half hour later.

greatbeard's picture

>> The Asian chick is much, much prettier.

And that matters how?  Which one would you rather titty fuck?   USA!!  USA!!!  USA!!!

Nobody For President's picture

The young asian woman looks a bit malnourished. I don't mean the breasts - the face, those arms - that woman needs more meat on her bones!

Troll Magnet's picture

Bring her to America. I'll put her up in my crib and see to it that she swallows...her food.

RSloane's picture

We would have done better to send Katy Perry rather than Biden. We sent BIDEN??

And yet the US wants to be taken seriously.

TheReplacement's picture

One probably carries every venerial disease known to man and the other will never cheat on you.

Grinder74's picture

I'll take Katy Perry any day over that two-by-four posing as a woman.

BGO's picture

Katy Perry has great tits.

mickeyman's picture

The best that could be grown in a lab

Agent P's picture

You know the worst thing about fake tits?  Me neither.

Seize Mars's picture

Agent P

Katy P


cameldojo's picture

I bet the girl on the right smells like borrowed socks from foot locker, and the girl on the left smells like asian peach pie.

SmackDaddy's picture

Hey, if I can touch them, theyre real

johnconnor's picture

Perfection would be the asian chick with Katy's boobs

disabledvet's picture

that's why they call them Filipinos.

NemoDeNovo's picture

+1000 for that one


~De Opresso Liber Brother

Seer's picture

Filipinas rock!  My wife can pass as being 20 years younger than she actually is.  Like I've said before, I'm a lucky son of a bitch :-)

Grinder74's picture

I know two Filipinos, a mother and daughter.  The mother is short, fat and ugly.  The daughter is that plus bad acne.  You were saying?

lakecity55's picture

more than a mouthfull's a waste!

Grinder74's picture

What, you don't have any hands?