With another four years in the White house, the US president can make firm on the commitment to Asia.
Congratulations to President Barack Obama on his re-election for another four-year term. He is the choice of the American people and it happens that he is also the choice of Asian countries. He has made America more attractive because he won the election without demonising foreigners. This was a hard-won electoral battle that will be remembered in the annals of US history.
One thing will be sure: From now on, US policy on Asia will speak volumes and firm up. This is the first occasion in which a two-time American president has made concrete proposals regarding Asia and he will now be able to implement them in full. Obama will travel to Southeast Asia next week.
Obama was elected on a domestic agenda concerning economic performance, healthcare, job creation and social-welfare programmes, but his foreign-policy outlook remains solid and useful for this region. Obviously, during his second term, he will have to work hard to deliver on all the promises made in 2008.
Voters, though cynical, knew full well which of the candidates could do the job of making America a great country again. In that sense Obama has the opportunity to create his own legacy. He can now determine what he wants the American people to remember him for. He can now focus on improving lives and at the same time raise America’s standing in the world.
Obama has already been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize. We can only hope that the world will be safer with an American president with such a prize in his hands. In the minds of many he must maintain his moral authority. In that sense, he is different from Mitt Romney, who is hawkish when it comes to security in the Middle East. The US can now put diplomatic pressure on such countries as Iran and North Korea and create a new coalition to ensure that the world is safe from the nuclear threat.
Obama’s re-election comes at the same time as China is also electing a new batch of leaders. With Xi Jinping as the new president and secretary-general of the Communist Party, US-China relations can be expected to improve further, despite competitive tensions in East Asia and the Pacific. For the first time, the US-China relations were not bruised because of tough talk during the election campaigns. Therefore we can hope that the world’s most important bilateral relationship is on the upswing.
It is hoped that such optimism will translate into additional stability in the region, which is now fraught with overlapping territorial claims. The region’s largest economies – China, South Korea and Japan – are at each other’s throats over maritime claims. Over the past two years these disputes in the South China Sea have been dominating the news. The US has made its voice clear, with its primary concern being freedom of navigation. That much at least is clear.
However, the US must be cautious not to side too closely with any of the parties to these disputes or send the wrong signals about its intentions over security in the Asia-Pacific region. Therefore the upcoming East Asia Summit in Phnom Penh will serve as litmus test regarding how the US and China can work together for the prosperity and stability of Asia, and particularly on sensitive security issues.