U.S.-East Asia Relations: A Strategy for Multilateral Engagement

Since the 1997 Asian financial crisis, East Asian countries have pursued a multifaceted approach to regional affairs, integrating free trade and economic agreements, ministerial meetings, and the ASEAN+3 and East Asian Summit processes. A striking feature of this new brand of East Asian regionalism is that it has largely developed without active engagement with the U.S. In a November 2011 report, U.S.-East Asia Relations: A Strategy for Multilateral Engagement, an Asia Society task force calls on the Obama Administration to renew and deepen U.S. engagement with Asia and outlines a series of steps for the U.S. to do so.

Recommendations from the Asia Society task force include:

  • Both sides should recognize and prepare for a change in the U.S.-Asia relationship
  • U.S. engagement with Asia can and should continue to be deepened
  • Asian regionalism should be supplemented by efforts to engage more deeply with the U.S. and to avoid Asian triumphalism
  • U.S.-China ties are most important for the region, but others in Asia also have a stake.
  • ASEAN should serve as a foundation
  • Both sides should recognize that integration on different economic and security issues will continue at different speeds in the region
  • A new U.S. diplomacy with ASEAN is needed
  • ASEAN must be more dynamic to offer regional leadership

The task force was co-chaired by Han Sung-Joo, Professor Emeritus at Korea University, and J. Stapleton Roy, Director for the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The co-directors of the task force were Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and Associate Professor of International Law at National University of Singapore, and Michael Kulma, Executive Director of Global Leadership Initiatives at Asia Society.