August 4, 2015
Southeast Asia is of growing importance to the United States. Unlike a number of countries in East Asia, those of Southeast Asia have healthy demographic profiles and the potential for robust economic growth. And as China seeks to expand its diplomatic influence and military power throughout the Asia-Pacific region, this sub-region is increasingly becoming a center of geopolitical competition. More and more, America’s own economic prospects and security concerns will be tied to the success or failure of US policy in Southeast Asia.
1. How will you balance US security interests and US values in Southeast Asia?
Geostrategic and economic dynamics are driving a number of Southeast Asian countries to draw closer to the United States. Washington has largely welcomed the trend and is taking its own steps to enhance ties to the region. But while the region plays host to some democratic success stories — notably the Philippines and Indonesia — freedom for many in Southeast Asia is still limited. Vietnam and Laos are communist dictatorships. Malaysia, Singapore, and Cambodia are essentially one-party states. Coup-prone Thailand is now ruled by a military junta. Democratization in Burma remains uneven at best. Is the strategic imperative to draw closer to Hanoi, for example, at odds with US goals regarding political liberalization and the protection of human rights in that country? Is it possible to increase pressure on Burma to adopt true democratic reform without driving Naypyidaw back into the Chinese camp?
Read the full article at the American Enterprise Institute: 5 questions that every presidential candidate should answer: Southeast Asia edition