ASEAN progress among major powers

ASEAN progress among major powers

JI-Jakarta. China is seen as the most influential economic and political power in Southeast Asia, but its expanding influence is not viewed favourably by a majority of respondents in a survey of Southeast Asians.

( Pequim – China, 24/05/2019) Vice-Presidente da República, Hamilton Mourão, durante Audiência com o Presidente da República popular da China, Senhor Xi Jinping. Foto: Adnilton Farias/VPR

The latest State of Southeast Asia survey report, published by the ASEAN Studies Centre at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, found that China is viewed as the most influential economic power, by nearly 60 per cent of respondents.

But this is significantly lower than the percentage of 76.7 per cent in 2022, and the decline followed strict mobility restrictions in China due to COVID-19. China is also seen as the most influential political-strategic power in the region (41.5 per cent), but the perception of its influence has also fallen from 54.4 per cent last year.

Japan is committed to strengthening its partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is now entering its 50th year, Japanese Foreign Minister Hayashi Yoshimasa has said.

Speaking at the “Commemorative Symposium for the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation” in Jakarta , he said that increasing cooperation with ASEAN is very important amid current geopolitical dynamics, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.

According to Yoshimasa, around December this year, Japan will hold a commemorative summit in Tokyo to mark the 50th year of the ASEAN-Japan partnership.

Russian Army

Russian ambassador to Indonesia Lyudmila Vorobieva told Kremlin media RIA Novosti that Vladimir Putin may visit Indonesia in 2023. Vorobieva said in the interview released on Feb.11 that Putin’s visit was related to the ASEAN Summit, which Indonesia will host this year.

“I can’t say 100% here, but we won’t rule out the possibility that Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin will visit Indonesia,” she said, adding that President Jokowi also has the opportunity of traveling to Russia to attend the St. Petersburg Economic Forum.

“We have a set of documents ready to sign in the presence of the two leaders. Included is a vital document, the Declaration of Strategic Partnership between our two countries, so that if such a visit occurs, the declaration will be signed,” Vorobieva added.

The latest survey on Southeast Asian countries published by the Center for ASEAN Studies at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute found that China is perceived as the most influential economic power by nearly 60 percent of respondents.

Chinese’s military power

However, China’s growing influence was “not received well by the region”, as the majority of those who view China as the most influential country in the region also expressed concerns about China’s expanding influence, said the report published on February 9. 

The popularity of China as a choice in Southeast Asian countries fell from 43 percent last year to 38.9 percent in 2022, while the United States is gaining more support with its popularity increasing to 57 percent. However, not all 10 ASEAN countries have similar results, as the majority of respondents from Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia still prefer China to the United States.

Other countries in Southeast Asia are in favor of the United States, with the Philippines and Vietnam having the highest percentage of support for the United States compared to China.

Indonesia has recently given countries in the Indo-Pacific a stern reminder that the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and China could “very well escalate into open conflict” if not properly managed, underpinning broader concerns that things could tum from bad to worse.

Tensions between Washington and Beijing have been high after a recent balloon incident quashed plans for the leaders of the two superpowers to finally meet in person after a period of cooling ties under pandemic duress.

Analysts are now questioning the state of Southeast Asia’s security and calling on Indonesia to strengthen relevant ASEAN-led mechanisms, lest the bloc risk an existential threat go unchecked.

Jakarta asserted the need to keep the region free of nuclear weapons and maintain strict adherence to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) during a meeting of defense and foreign ministers in Australia last week.

On Feb. 4 the United States Air Force shot down a Chinese meteorological balloon flying over U.S. airspace. The incident reminds us of the outer space delimitation inquiry and how high air space, thus the air law regime, may apply. The recent shooting down of the Chinese balloon should spark further discussions on delimitation to avoid potential conflict.

In light of searching for legal certainty on delimitation, its absence should lead to establishing a code of conduct to avoid such a thing happening with ASEAN. This region is striving to maintain peace and stability.

As the ASEAN chair, Indonesia can play a further role in space law by accommodating an exclusive economic utilization zone, as suggested by various space law experts who insist that the state has sovereign rights outside of its national air space.

China said it will take measures against U.S. entities related to the downing of a suspected Chinese spy balloon off the U.S. East Coast.

At a daily briefing, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin gave no details and did not identify the targets of the measures.

China says the balloon was an unmanned weather airship that was accidentally blown off course and accuses the U.S. of overreacting in bringing it down with a missile fired from an F-22 fighter jet.

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