The U.S. insists it takes no position in the ongoing disputes, but Washington has clashed with China over the former's right to collect intelligence within China's 200 mile Exclusive Economic Zone. It would only take one drunk ship captain or one over-aggressive aircraft pilot to create an incident and set the stage for conflict.
HONG KONG -- Trump capitalizes on a dangerous combination of isolationism and hawkishness. Against this background, Asian countries should work to remake geopolitics so it is no longer stuck in the post-war narrative where America's overwhelming military supremacy is viewed as the only way to solve the world's problems. ASEAN has long disapproved of intervention, instead supporting economic engagement and investment. And the Singaporean "problem-solving" approach is more likely to be accepted by countries than the lecturing, sanctions and military threats that often accompany Western diplomacy.
SINGAPORE -- It turns out that what most defines the emerging world is not fragmentation of countries but integration within regions. Major world regions are forging dense infrastructural connectivity and reorienting their relations around supply chains rather than borders. The same world that appears to be falling apart is actually coming together in much more concrete ways than today's political maps suggest.
MOSCOW -- The era that began with the end of the Second World War is now over. That period was characterized by a relatively orderly and stable system of confrontation. In fact, the end of the Cold War did not mean the emergence of a new order. There was a hope that the main centers of power would establish relations based largely on cooperation. Instead, an attempt was made to build a unipolar world, which predictably failed. To all appearances, the world is now being swept by a wave of turbulence and fierce competition, if not a struggle of all against all.
Overall, China is by no means militarily superior to the United States and will not be for a long time. However, the United States has invested in vulnerable aircraft carrier battle groups for global power projection, which waste many naval resources defending themselves from possible attacks from the air, sea, and undersea at the expense of projecting offensive power.
When Obama meets Najib Razak at the ASEAN summit in California, it is time for a new direction in the U.S.-Malaysia relationship. Human rights should return to the fore. Obama must publicly demand the release of prisoners charged with politically motivated crimes. For him to remain silent is tantamount to giving Najib a license to act with impunity.
KUALA LUMPUR -- It is right to criticize Indonesia for the forest fires that cast a suffocating haze across Southeast Asia this summer and fall. But this is a regional problem. Indonesia can't do it alone. ASEAN and the world must step forward and take action, before Southeast Asia is lost in the haze forever.
Clearly, the Philippines continues to see the AIIB as some kind of Chinese Trojan horse to buy the loyalty of neighbors and some measure of territorial acquiescence in exchange for economic carrots. Manila is also not comfortable with China having huge presence in its strategic, infrastructure sectors.
BEIJING -- Washington needs to state and re-state that what it is determined to defend is the global commons, not its naval supremacy in the South China Sea. The former wins high ground in the court of international opinion. The latter may generate headlines for the grandstand wanting to see U.S.-Chinese rivalry, but it will likely result in a limited alliance and set the region down a zero-sum track.