Expert: Clinton Tries to Dampen Fears of China 'Rivalry' in Southeast Asia Tour

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton toasts Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh during the ASEAN Gala Dinner at City Hall in Phnom Penh on July 12, 2012. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP/GettyImages)

This week Voice of America reported that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s trip to Southeast Asia revealed a “change in the focus of American policy” in the area which involved moving emphasis away from security and defense to more wide-ranging diplomacy including trade and investment.

Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society’s Vice President for Global Policy Programs, told the radio station the U.S. administration has recognized that a ramp up in military presence in the region has caused tension in the area that needed to be quelled.

“I think after reflection the administration has realized that it came out too heavy on the so-called security side,” DiMaggio said.

“It announced it had plans to deploy 60 percent of its naval power to the Pacific by 2020, it also forged a partnership with Australia to set up a military presence there, and so forth. So the message it has been sending is yes, the United States is pivoting toward Asia but the emphasis was on the military aspects. I think that this made many countries in the region very uncomfortable because it set up a power competition between China and the United States, and a potential rivalry in the area of military that they did not want to see.”

You can hear the full interview below:

DiMaggio was also quoted in a Los Angeles Times World Now piece about Clinton’s stop in Laos, in which she said, “There’s a clear recognition that America’s future, stability and prosperity is increasingly connected to Southeast Asia.”

Read the full article here.

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Alex Ortolani is Asia Society’s Senior Media and Content Officer.