Analyst expects that Malaysia-US bilateral relationship to remain strong and continue to benefit mutually under President Joe Biden’s administration.
Analyst Thomas Daniel said this is because professional technocrats and diplomats are the ones who largely handle the relationship. In fact, these professionals account for its effectiveness and functionality for both countries.
The good news is that the Malaysia-US bilateral relationship is deep-rooted and low-key enough to weather changes both in Putrajaya and Washington DC. Even there may be many consequences in bilateral relations, both parties can manage them well same as previously.
Malaysia has formally established diplomatic relations with the US in 1957. Meanwhile, both countries have promoted the bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership in April 2014.
Thomas is an analyst of the Institute of Strategic & International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. He said that the new US administration now seems to be more proactive in its commitment to multilateral approaches. Hence, the US might involve in more consultations with ASEAN claimant states to the South China Sea and with ASEAN itself.
He added that it is also crucial for the Biden administration to increase the engagement with ASEAN. This is not just because ASEAN contains China, but acting as a constructive player for the regional grouping, especially in providing practical options for cooperation.
The strained relationship between the US and China
Although Biden does not specifically mention ASEAN in his first foreign policy speech, he had labelled China as the US’s biggest competitor. Besides, he added that his administration will take on directly the challenges posed by China.
Thomas expected that the South China Sea issue will continue to be a key focus under the new US administration. Moreover, the debate will continue to be subsumed within US-China strategic competition, further narrowing the options for ASEAN.
The South China Sea issue
The South China Sea is rich in hydrocarbon, marine ad mineral resources as well as its vital shipping lanes.
This conflict involved overlapping territorial claims by four ASEAN countries – Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines, and Vietnam. In addition, China and Taiwan also claim the South China Sea as their territory.
However, the rivalry between the US and China, which have grown strainer in recent years has further complicated the issue. Both sides have been accusing each other of aggressively advancing the power and influence through military might.
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