Saturday, May 31, 2014

U.S. Sway in Asia Is Imperiled as China Challenges Alliances

By HELENE COOPER and JANE PERLEZ, NYT, MAY 30, 2014

SINGAPORE — The Obama administration’s three-year-old plan to shift its foreign policy focus to Asia was supposed to shore up interests in a critical region, push new free trade pacts and re-establish United States influence as a balance to a growing China, after a decade of inattention.

But as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited this city-state for a security conference with all of the interested parties on Friday, that much-vaunted Asia policy appeared to be turning into more of a neighborhood street fight, with the United States having to simultaneously choose sides and try to play the role of referee.

All around Asia, China is pushing and probing at America’s alliances, trying to loosen the bonds that have kept the countries close to Washington and allowed the United States to be the pre-eminent power in the region since World War II.

In just the past week, China traded punches with Vietnam and Japan. A Chinese fishing vessel rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat on Monday near a Chinese deepwater oil rig that was placed in disputed waters off the coast of Vietnam. That confrontation followed a close encounter last Saturday in which two pairs of Chinese fighter jets flew close to Japanese surveillance and electronic intelligence planes, in disputed airspace claimed by both countries.

(More here.)

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