Impacted The Us Asia Relations Politics
The terror attacks of September 11, 2001 in America was a critical turning point that saw the government of the United States making a paradigm shift in international relations, especially in determining decision making on bilateral and multilateral ties with countries around the world. In this essay, my discussion will examine the relation between U.S and Asia, post 9/11 with a focus on two regions of Asia. The first part will focus on U.S and its ties with Southeast Asia, specifically on impacts towards countries such as Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. The second part of this paper will assess the relationship between the U.S and East Asian countries like Japan, China and Taiwan. In the following paragraphs, I will stress that the US interest in Asia post 9/11 is to foster security for US and to combat the war on terror in their favour and these can be proved by focusing on the status of the second front given to Southeast Asia and the frequent US visits made to East Asia to grant security aid in the "purpose" of combating terrorism.
The September 11 attacks on America was an unprecedented one that jolted countries all around the world, pushing them to move towards bilateral security cooperation initiatives in different regions (Owada & Cossa 2002:5).Shocked leaders in the Asian region were quick to express sympathy for United States and to condemn all terrorist activities. Indeed many of these Asian leaders supported America's call for cooperation and responsive action and deliberated on measures to combat and prevent terrorist activities and organisations. In this regard, the world 'superpower', U.S played its cards well to win allies in Asia to assist the U.S in their "war on terror". Interestingly, there was a shift to focus on turmoil and unrest taking place in the middle eastern countries of which were seen as a region of disorder. It was deemed important that the Asian countries endorse international efforts to oust regimes that purportedly supported al-Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.
One of the most prominent matter in this discussion will relate to the U.S way of engaging towards the global "war on terrorism". The US role in the war on terrorism became an "intervening variable" in the region's stance towards the war in terror. The U.S pushed the idea of an unstable and unpredictable order in world relations that needed serious attention by Asian countries while using this occurrence as a political tool to increase its dominance in the Asian region and to penetrate the decision-making powers in Asia (Kakihara, 2003). Clearly, countries that were seen an possible competitors were reframed as strategic partners working together with U.S towards combating terrorism. This is especially evident in the case of China and Taiwan where the awareness of threat perception was heightened and these countries were reframed as supportive of the terrorist struggle engaged by U.S.
The attacks of September 11 and its aftermath preceded what was later named as the "new war of the 21st century" by President Bush who was in office then (Owada 2002:7). The nature of this war unlike the other wars waged in Asia was multifaceted and saw very blur lines of who the "enemy" was. The Cold War for instance had a clear view of Soviet Union as the antagonist and the top priority was to deal with the Soviet threats (Kakihara 2003:3). Interestingly, when the Bush administration announced the long term war on terror, it was not only aimed at the Middle East bloc but also to the rest of the world that had any links or accommodated rebel groups. The Bush administration set the agenda that countries linked to terrorist activities and those that were responsible for producing weapons of mass destructions must be dealt with swift response from all countries seeking to establish a peaceful world order (Kakihara, 2003).
In that light, it was a major paradigm shift for America when they acknowledged Southeast Asia as the "second front" in this war of terror. Muslims make a large population in Southeast Asia especially in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Philippines and Southern Thailand. Having struggled through modernisation and globalisation which witnessed western and white supremacy, the spread of frustrated radical Islamic groups became a growing concern for U.S and this fear intensified after the September 11 attacks. Even though there was no evidence of direct links of terrorist organisations in this Asian region, many "militant" groups around Southeast Asia were labelled as potential threats to the world order. While this move was questionable, it was understandable because of the presence of radical Islamist groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) which had different cells around Southeast Asia, Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) in the Philippines, and the Kumpulan Mujahideen Malaysia (KMM) in Malaysia which had links to the Al-Qaeda network (Rabasa 2001). Clearly the U.S agenda constructed Southeast Asia as the "new home base that brought down the World Trade Centre" (Gershman, 2002). Further, these militant groups went into the limelight just after the bombings of the J.W.W Marriot Hotel in Bali within a year from the terror attack of September 11, 2001.
These attacks were a refection of terrorist movements in Asia and certainly draw the attention of America to interfere. Whether or not the case, the repercussion of September 11 altered America's relationship towards Southeast Asia. Best described as "chilly interactions with Muslim- majority Malaysia", America's relations alleviated in addition to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recognition from Washington for his move in supporting the U.S war on terrorism (Gershman 2002). This is not the case for Indonesia who refused to share the same cooperation as Malaysia. That however, did not stop the Bush administration to deploy 660 military troops on a "training mission" in the Southern Philippines, consistently reassuring Malaysia and Singapore to rummage Islamic fundamentalist militants in their region and exert pressure on Indonesia to join the other Asian countries in "combating terrorism". There were mixed reactions to the US targeting Southeast Asia. A political scientist wrote an article, "Wrong Target" in the Far Eastern Economic Review is quoted saying "many people in the region are now saying the US efforts to combat global terrorism are in danger of doing as much harm as good. The US has been criticised as clumsy, misguided and failing into longstanding local disputes that have festered for years and pose little international threat." (Reference).
Moving to the East Asia region, the tragic event of September 11 will be examined through its impacts with the U.S-Japan security alliance in undertaking counterrism campaigns, which has lead to strong bilateral security cooperation. Japan and U.S has always been assumed to be in safe positions in which U.S would come to the aid of Japan in the even of an attack against Japan or their regional security. If anything, the U.S - Japan alliance today is stronger than it has been in the past reaching a peak on its own. Their great diplomatic success is mostly dependent to Japan's strong hand to the U.S after the horrible events of September 11. Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force vessels are refuelling and resupplying U.S and coalition vessels in the Indian Ocean, Japanese Air Self Fedense Force units are made accessible to help protect the U.S military forces as well as the facilities in Japan ( ). Besides that, Japan's benevolence and guidance in helping the U.S and other concerned nations rebuilding a "liberated Afghanistan" clearly exemplifies Japan's active engagement in the global war on terrorism.
In addition to that, Japan's move by its involvement in the Operation Enduring Freedom and UN peacekeeping promotes a dynamic operating in a multilateral atmosphere. This experience for Japan once again proves its credibility and leadership towards U.S despite the limits imposed by the Constitution and its structures of collective self-defence that puts Japan's security interest at risk. President Bush who attended the Japanese Diet in February 2003 acknowledged Japan's effort in his speech saying, "(Japan's) response to the terrorist threat has demonstrated the strength of our alliance and the indispensable role of Japan that is globalâ€¦" (Citation needed). There were missed reactions from political members to what was considered as a high point in the relationship between both countries. In an conference held to analyse the paradigm shift of 9/11 towards East Asia, many participants disapproved of Japan's overly engagement towards the U.S. Japan was criticised for not taking action on its own terms and security, instead responding to the U.S terms ( ). Anti-U.S sentiment became widespread and visible amongst Japanese society while some argue that it's a "growing pacifist sentiment" ( KK). Nonetheless, there seem to be a overall agreement that Japan should not be giving more aid to the U.S bases than its already doing even if it there is a prospect of support between both alliance.
Before September 11, America's focus on China was mostly on the growth of their economy. However, after the terror attacks of 9/11, Us paid more attention to China to seek its support in combating terrorism () Despite the improved relationship, China was still cautious with the America's motive. Another reason to this is having China being one of the world's largest distributor of weapons of mass destructions naturally became a threat to the US for its "conventional military threats' (Rabasa 2002). When US planted their troops in Central Asia, 'China's own backyard', this move was seen as US trying to box China in and involve China in their long-term plans for military power and National Security Strategy to the United States. From the perspective of US-led superpower however, this move may just seem more of cooperation rather than a rivalry act.
Before September 11, America's focus on China was mostly on the competition of their economy in becoming the largest in the world. However, after the terror attacks of 9/11, US shifted its attention to China to seek its support in combating terrorism () Despite the moral support in terms of deeds and words () , China was still cautious with the America's motive. Another reason to this is having China being one of the world's largest distributor of weapons of mass destructions naturally became a threat to the U.S. (Rabasa 2002). When US planted their troops in Central Asia, 'China's own backyard', this move was seen as US trying to box China in and involve China in their long-term plans for military power and National Security Strategy to the United States. From the perspective of US-led superpower however, this move may just seem more of cooperation rather than a rivalry act.
There are many views as to the relationship between China and the U.S after the terror attacks of September 11, some suggesting that ties were created between both countries and other that suggest that it only made the situation worse for both important countries at that time. In this paper, I suggest that while September 11 did not alter the relationship between the U.S and China, it to some extent reduce the on-going tensions that exist between both powerful countries at that time. It is not unusual for China to worry about America especially since 9/11, the U.S involvement in diverse parts of Asia which shares a strong bond with China have been affected. For instance, U.S had sought support from the Russia and Pakistan President, Vladimir Putin and President Musharaff who are also close allies with China, making changes in policies involving the theatre missile defence and national missile defence. In the wake of the terror attacks, the U.S prioritised its strategic concerns in Asia. Scalipino (year) writes that the U.S - China relationship is likely to rest on two bases in the future; "a concert of powers and a balance of power".
The next East Asia nation link that is widely speculated post 9/11 is the Taiwan. The case of Taiwan is rather complex as not only does it involve the U.S but also China, which have long proclaimed as a crucial but both parties have yet to resolve the issue. It is important to note that although there was some sort of relations change between China and the US, China has not changed its policy towards Taiwan (). Judging from the power relationship between China and the U.S, there may not any major changes to the way China handles Taiwan in the short term. However, in the long run, if China chooses to compete with the U.S, the likelihood of a clash is at high risk ( ) depending on the the military, economic and social strength of China. There are many views shared in the case of Taiwan relations with U.S post September 11. Some political scientist suggest that it is a good prospect for China to "mount an offensive for peace" with Taiwan while the U.S is concerned with the war on terror in the Middle East ( ). This is, however, very unlikely to prevent any form of intervention from the U.S.
It is important to reiterate the fact that in the past, a clear cut line dividing what constitutes an internal versus and an external threat, however in the post September era, both these problems need to be merged and seen as one big problem. The challenge here however, is to deal with this global setback bearing in mind that the "21st century war" as President Bush ( ) puts it has affected all nations knowing or unknowingly. In Asia, the fact that a lot of non-state entities have taken major roles in international relations shaping spheres and social area post September 11 shoes a strong bond between neighbouring countries. The attacks of September 11 has a a significant implication in bring state actors together towards achieving world public order and to tighten links among countries.
By means of conclusion, the September 11 terror attacks demonstrated the United Stated as the sole super power dominates the era in which we are living, and this is not a unipolar world. Whether we choose agree or differ, it cannot be denied that only the super power can manage, control and dictate own its own terms, values and judgements that is in favour to them primarily. In terms of the Asia relation with the U.S, they may not have a major role to play but it is important for the developing countries to grapple with new security concern in the post September 11 world to investigate the how this affects constructive management of the alliance. Finally, the war on terrorism is superimposed on old issues and has not changed the justification for a continued U.S military presence in Asia or the overly attached bilateral deals. Unless some security issue is raised, the composition of U.S forward-deployed forces will likely to stay the same.
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