Asia has always had a major role to play not only in world politics but also regional and national security issues. A vibrant and diverse continent, Asia has been a key player in the global struggle against poverty and corruption for decades. The rising economies in many Asian countries have made a tremendous impact on the global economy and coupled with political stability and robust market growth, Asia has served as a platform for economic diplomacy between countries for decades. With globalization and a focus on economic growth, there is a heightened need for countries in the Asia Pacific region to address regional issues such as governance, trade, and human rights, all of which can have a direct effect on US-ASEAN relations. As China and other Asian countries grow into major players in the global economy, the regional role of Asia will become even more important.
Regional efforts by Asia countries to counterbalance US interests through cooperation and trade are seen in the United Nations Security Council and in the World Trade Organization negotiations. Regional bodies such as the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank are trying to enhance the overall quality of life in Asia by increasing regional trade, providing technical know-how, and promoting higher levels of education and infrastructure. Similarly, the United States is looking to Asia to increase its defense capacity, promote human rights, and come to terms with its past behavior in using force. While US interests in Asia have waxed and waned over time, regional efforts by Asian countries to counter US dominance in the region are unprecedented and have the potential to strengthen the global economy and regional security.
Asia has always been a challenge for US interests in the past, and it is likely that the future will bring challenges as well. In the past, Asia has used regional organizations, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union, to deal with the US sphere of influence. However, the increasing complexity of bilateral relations, increased international trade and increased globalization means that regional politics will play a bigger role in shaping the future relationship between the US and Asia. This is an unfortunate reality, as the United States has long supported efforts at regional cooperation and development. However, while bilateral US-ASEAN cooperation has helped the region achieve certain goals, an increase in regional political awareness and engagement by Asian countries and the United States could further boost economic prosperity and stability in the region, which would in turn benefit both sides.