Barack Obama Defies China in The Pacific. Australia was waiting for months. In 2010, Barack Obama had canceled twice his visit. The first, in March, to pass his reform of health insurance. The second, in June, because of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. This time, the difficult negotiations between elected Republicans and Democrats to try to find an agreement by the end of next week on budget savings of 1.5 trillion dollars, have not prompted the U.S. president to change his plans.
At a time when the United States are currently completing their withdrawal from Iraq and reduce their military presence in Afghanistan, the White House wants to reorient its foreign policy on Asia. President’s travel to Australia and Bali to attend his first East Asia Summit, are important steps. “Barack Obama never forgot Asia,” says Elizabeth Economy, director of Asian Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “From the beginning of his term, Barack Obama focused on the relationship with China. But things have changed in 2010 because of Chinese foreign policy much more aggressive in Southeast Asia.”
Having laid the foundation for creating the largest free trade zone in the world during the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (APEC) in Hawaii last weekend, Barack Obama arrives in Australia with one goal: strengthen military ties with Canberra at a time when the United States and Australia celebrated the 60th anniversary of their alliance. Tomorrow he will announce the deployment of thousands of Marines in Australia who must participate in the training of Australian soldiers and joint military exercises.
This presence allows Washington to send a signal to China that has ambitions in Southeast Asia. “Australia is part of U.S. allies and the access it provides to its military bases is an important step for the White House,” says Elizabeth. “Many countries in Southeast Asia is seeing a very good eye, an increased U.S. engagement in the region because of their fear of China. Beijing believes that Washington is a maneuver, but rather it is the consequence of its territorial claims in South China Sea.”
The argument that China opposes Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei risk of damage to discussions of East Asia Summit which Obama will attend Saturday. China denies that the issue be addressed and the U.S. seem to keep a low profile. “Barack Obama does not give the impression of playing the big guys,” said Elizabeth Economy. Behind the scenes, however, Washington encouraged its allies to resist China’s territorial claims over areas of a sea rich in hydrocarbons.