East Asian foreign policy of the Barack Obama administration

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For purposes of U.S. State Department policy, East Asia consists of Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China (mainland, as well as Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and Macau Special Administrative Region), East Timor, Fiji, Indonesia, Japan, Kiribati, Laos, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nauru, New Zealand, North Korea, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Taiwan (R.O.C.), Thailand, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, and Vietnam.[1] The Assistant Secretary of State for the East Asian and Pacific Affairs is Daniel R. Russel.

President Obama's Asia strategy represents a significant shift in American foreign policy from a Middle Eastern/European focus to an East/South Asian one.[2] Previously, the Clinton and Bush administrations deployed significant naval and air weapons systems to Guam and Japan, cooperated with Singapore by constructing an aircraft carrier facility at Changi Naval Base, and strengthened U.S. bilateral defense cooperation with Japan and the Philippines.[3] "The Bush administration assigned an additional aircraft carrier to the Pacific theater and the Pentagon announced in 2005 that it would deploy 60 percent of U.S. submarines to Asia."[3] Spending for United States Pacific Command (PACOM) remained high during the anti-insurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Additional focus was placed on the region with the Obama administration's 2012 "Pivot to East Asia" regional strategy,[4] whose key areas of actions are: "strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights."[5] A report by the Brookings Institution states that reactions to the pivot strategy were mixed, as "different Asian states responded to American rebalancing in different ways."[4]

There has been strong perception from China that all of these are part of US' China containment policy.[6] Proponents of this theory claim that the United States needs a weak, divided China to continue its hegemony in Asia. This is accomplished, the theory claims, by the United States establishing military, economic, and diplomatic ties with countries adjacent to China's borders.

People's Republic of China[edit]

President Barack Obama addresses the opening session of the first U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. Listening at left are Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan, center, and Chinese State Councilor Dai Bingguo, left.

In a speech given 13 February 2009, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that "some believe that China on the rise is, by definition, an adversary", but "to the contrary, we believe that the United States and China can benefit from and contribute to each other's successes. It is in our interests to work harder to build on areas of common concern and shared opportunities."[7] Clinton left on her first foreign policy tour (to Asia) on 15 February 2009 including scheduled stops in Japan, China, South Korea, and Indonesia. Joining her on this trip was Special Envoy for Climate Change Todd Stern.[7]

It had been earlier reported by U.S. officials and media that Vice President Joe Biden could emerge as the figure to spearhead U.S.–China relations. Clinton was reported to have fought hard to obtain the China file and lead the comprehensive dialogue with China.[8][9][10] The Financial Times noted an inter-agency rivalry between the State Department and Treasury Department over the management of the U.S.-China relationship.[11]

Prior to leaving on her tour of Asia, Clinton remarked, "We see the Chinese economic relationship as essential to our own country, so we're going to consult and work in a way that will be mutually beneficial." [12] Clinton attracted criticism, though, when she suggested that U.S. criticism of the human rights record of the People's Republic of China should not be allowed to "interfere" with cooperation with Beijing on resolving global economic, environmental, and security crises.[13] Less than a week later, a report signed by Clinton criticizing the PRC on its human rights violations in 2008 was released by the U.S. State Department.[14] In response, China issued a report accusing Washington of utilising human rights concerns in China for political gain and suggesting that the U.S. was turning a 'blind eye' to their own violations of human rights.[15]

On 1 April 2009, Obama and Hu Jintao announced the establishment of the high-level U.S.–China Strategic and Economic Dialogue co-chaired by Hillary Clinton and Timothy Geithner on the U.S. side and Dai Bingguo and Wang Qishan on the Chinese side.

On 16 May 2009, Obama announced his intention to nominate Jon Huntsman, Jr., the Republican Governor of Utah to fill the position of Ambassador to China. Huntsman was the only ambassador in the Administration to be personally announced by the President. The United States Senate needed to confirm the appointment.[16] Huntsman said that he and President Barack Obama believe that the United States' relationship with China is its most important in the world.[17] Huntsman's nomination has thus far garnered positive reactions from both China and the U.S. Senate.[18]

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner visited China from 31 May – 2 June 2009 and had discussions with top Chinese political and economic leaders.[citation needed] He had the opportunity to meet with Hu Jintao, Premier Wen Jiabao and Vice Premier Wang Qishan, and delivered a speech at Peking University, where he studied.[19]

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu traveled to China from 14 to 17 July.[20]

The 'Pivot'[edit]

The American military and diplomatic 'pivot,' or 'rebalance' toward Asia became a popular buzzword after Hillary Clinton authored America's Pacific Century, in Foreign Policy.[21] Clinton's article emphasizes the importance of the Asia-Pacific, noting that nearly half of the world's population resides there, making its development vital to American economic and strategic interests. She states that "open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the nuclear proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region's key players."[21] The 'pivot' strategy, according to Clinton, will proceed along six courses of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening America's relationships with rising powers, including China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.[21]

Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia at the time, believed that Obama's 'pivot' or rebalancing toward the Asia-Pacific region was appropriate: "without such a move, there was a danger that China, with its hard-line, realist view of international relations, would conclude that an economically exhausted United States was losing its staying power in the Pacific."[22] With the United States now fully invested in Asia, Rudd wrote that Washington and Beijing must create long-term cooperative strategies that accommodate each other's interests. Doing this would significantly reduce miscalculation and the likelihood of conflict. Rudd maintained that the United States' rebalancing is not purely a military one but rather "part of a broader regional diplomatic and economic strategy that also includes the decision to become a member of the East Asia Summit and plans to develop the Trans-Pacific Partnership, deepen the United States' strategic partnership with India, and open the door to Myanmar."[22] Beijing may not welcome the pivot, but Rudd believed China, whose military academies read Clausewitz and Morgenthau and respect strategic strength, understands it.

Robert S. Ross, an Associate at the John King Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies at Harvard University, argues that the 'pivot' toward China is creating a self-fulfilling prophecy, whereby U.S. policy "unnecessarily compounds Beijing's insecurities and will only feed China's aggressiveness, undermine regional stability, and decrease the possibility of cooperation between Beijing and Washington."[3] The United States is minimizing long-term diplomatic engagement and inflating the threat posed by Chinese power when it should really be recognizing China's inherent weaknesses and its own strengths. "The right China policies would assuage, not exploit, Beijing's anxieties, while protecting U.S. interests in the region."[3]

Amitai Etzioni, professor of international affairs at the George Washington University, argues that the pivot to Asia is premature. Though assessments of China's military vary, even the most hawkish foreign policy experts state that it will be decades before China's People's Liberation Army will threaten the superpower status of the U.S. Meanwhile, turning away from the Middle East, where a number of urgent challenges remain, including the Syrian civil war, the ongoing struggle with the Taliban and al Qaeda, and Iran's nuclear program, would undermine the interests of the United States and its allies in the region and needlessly antagonize China.[23]

Aaron L. Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, believes U.S. strategy toward China has coupled engagement with balancing. "The engagement half of this strategy has been geared toward enmeshing China in global trade and international institutions, discouraging it from challenging the status quo, and giving it incentives to become what the George W. Bush administration termed a 'responsible stakeholder' in the existing international system."[24] The other half attempts to maintain the balance of power, deter aggression, and mitigate any attempts of coercion. Friedberg believes more emphasis has been placed on the former and not the latter. "The problem with the pivot is that to date it lacks serious substance. The actions it has entailed either have been merely symbolic, such as the pending deployment of a small number of U.S. marines to Australia, or have involved simply the reallocation of existing air and naval assets from other theaters."[24]

The PRC's Defense Ministry has cited the pivot as an excuse for their own continued buildup.[25] China has also cited the American example for other actions, such as the establishment of their Air Defense Identification Zone. Former Chinese State Councilor, Dai Bingguo, suggested to Hillary Clinton: “Why don’t you ‘pivot out of here?’”[26] Former President Hu Jintao stated:

[The United States has] strengthened its military deployments in the Asia-Pacific region, strengthened the US-Japan military alliance, strengthened strategic cooperation with India, improved rlations with Vietnam, inveigled Pakistan, established a pro-American government in Afghanistan, increased arms sales to Taiwan, and so on. They have extended outposts and placed pressure points on us from the east, south, and west.[27]

On 4 June 2013, the Asia-Pacific Strategy Working Group at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) released Securing U.S. Interests and Values in the Asia-Pacific, a memorandum to President Barack Obama and the United States Congress.[28] The President of the United States can achieve his goals in the Asia-Pacific, the memorandum argues, by working with Congress to employ a comprehensive, long-term strategy that satisfies the following four conditions: promoting economic integration and liberalization; strengthening alliances and security partnerships; reinforcing U.S. military posture in the Asia-Pacific; draw on the full range of U.S. diplomatic and national power.[28]

Prem Mahadevan, senior researcher at the Center for Security Studies (CSS) at ETH Zurich, argues that two complementing circumstances in the Asia-Pacific have precipitated the pivot: "The security dynamic in East Asia is two layered; one layer consists of regional actors pursuing their own agendas, while the second consists of global influences which are propelling China into a geopolitical contest against the United States. On a grand strategic level, both sets of dynamics feed into one another."[29] Consequently, newly commissioned ships and fifth generation aircraft are being prioritized for the Pacific theater of U.S. military operations to maintain the balance of power. "It is expected that when the 'rebalancing' or 'pivot' of forces from the Atlantic to the Pacific is complete, 60 percent of the U.S. Navy will be based in the Pacific – a 10 percent increase from current levels. In effect, the theater would gain one additional U.S. aircraft carrier, seven destroyers, ten littoral combat ships and two submarines, plus reconnaissance assets such as EP3 spy planes."[30]

In contrast the permanent bases and other infrastructure of the Cold War, the pivot will use rotational deployments to host nation facilities.[31][32] James F. Amos has said that by avoiding a few large bases, the American forces will be a harder target for ballistic missiles.[33] The power of the pivot will be boosted by American arms sales to the region.[34]

Senator John McCain has moved to block funding for the realignment, citing a lack of a solid plan.[35]

The pivot took a hit from the United States federal government shutdown of 2013 as Obama was forced to remain in Washington and so could not attend APEC Indonesia 2013.[36] Commander of Pacific Air Forces Herbert J. Carlisle has acknowledged that resources have not been committed to the pivot due to other American commitments and Budget sequestration in 2013.[37] Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, has said that the pivot was being reconsidered in light of the budget pressures.[38]

Geo-economics, free trade, supranational investment... etc.[edit]

Think-tanks such as the World Pensions Council (WPC) observed that “to contain China, the US sought new defence and trade alliances across Asia from Baku to Borneo, with limited success so far. Despite Washington’s insistent nudging, Tokyo and Seoul have been reluctant to strengthen their bilateral military and economic ties. But as the ‘liberal hawks’ of Washington DC rather clumsily deployed this encirclement strategy, the Chinese leadership did not stay idle. And one of their ripostes was in international finance,” [39] noting that the establishment by China of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, “a new supranational financial institution based in Beijing needn’t trigger vain geopolitical rivalries. China and the West can work successfully together to build a more prosperous, equitable economic order across the Asia-Pacific region.”[40]

In that perspective, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement linking the United States and eleven Pacific Rim countries signed on 5 October 2015 [41] can also be interpreted as heralding the start of a "New Great Game” pitting America against China.[40]


Toshimi Kitazawa given an Operation Tomodachi banner on 4 April 2011

Japan is a major area of engagement for the East Asian foreign policy of the Obama Administration. In her inaugural tour of East Asia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reassured Japanese officials of Japan's centrality in the network of American alliances.[12] In response to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the United States initiated Operation Tomodachi to support Japan in disaster relief following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami[42] earning gratitude from Japan's minister of defense, Toshimi Kitazawa who, while visiting the Ronald Reagan, thanked its crew for its assistance as part of Operation Tomodachi saying, "I have never been more encouraged by and proud of the fact that the United States is our ally."[43]

North Korea[edit]

Obama and South Korean President Lee Myung-bak walking after a meeting at the Blue House in Seoul in November 2010.

Not long after Obama took office as President of the United States on 20 January 2009, North Korea elbowed its way back onto the international stage after a period of relative quiet during the waning months of the Bush administration.[44] But in spite of a pledge, made during George W. Bush's last few weeks as president, to denuclearize,[45] North Korea drew accusations of planning a new long-range intercontinental ballistic missile test weeks after Obama was sworn in.[46][47] The accusations, which came mostly from Japan, the Republic of Korea, and the United States, were countered by Pyongyang's insistence that the alleged rocket launch preparation identified by U.S. spy satellite observation was actually groundwork for a North Korean satellite launch.[48]

Obama, in solidarity with Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso, warned North Korea against "provocative" gestures such as a rocket launch.[49] The United States Navy has declared its readiness to use missile defense systems to shoot down a North Korean missile if one is launched, either offensively or as a test, with Admiral Timothy Keating saying that the fleet awaited the president's order.[50] However, North Korea warned on 9 March 2009, that such a shootdown would "precisely mean a war".[51]

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stirred controversy on 19 February 2009, when she admitted that the Obama administration was concerned over a possible succession crisis in North Korea, in reference to the recent apparent illness of reclusive leader Kim Jong-il.[52] While on a tour of East Asia over the following days, Clinton expressed the Obama administration's desire to engage in negotiations with the North Korean government to seek nuclear disarmament for the Communist state.[53]

On 20 February 2009, the U.S. State Department, led by Clinton, appointed Stephen Bosworth as Special Representative for North Korea Policy.[54] Bosworth embarked on a mission to East Asia in early March 2009 and reportedly met with Chinese, Russian, Japanese, and South Korean officials to discuss the North Korean nuclear situation.[55]

Following unannounced nuclear warhead and missile testing by North Korea in late May 2009, Obama's State Department expressed disapproval, calling the actions a violation of a 2006 United Nations Security Council resolution.[56] After Pyongyang announced its intention to terminate the 1953 armistice ending hostilities in the Korean War on 28 May the South Korea-United States Combined Forces Command went to Watchcon II, the second-highest alert level possible.[57]

In 2010, two more major incidents with North Korea would occur under the Obama Administration: the sinking of a South Korean Navy Ship that actuated new rounds of military exercises with South Korea as a direct military response to sinking[58] and the Bombardment of Yeonpyeong prompting the US Navy aircraft carrier USS George Washington to depart for joint exercises in the Yellow Sea with the Republic of Korea Navy, in part to deter further North Korean military action.[59][60] In light of the geopolitical developments with North Korea, the Obama Administration has dubbed the U.S.-South Korean alliance as a "cornerstone of US security in the Pacific Region."[57]

The United States has increased its military presence on the East Asian mainland. President Bush withdrew 40 percent of U.S. troops from South Korea after "recognizing that South Korean forces required less U.S. assistance to manage the threat from North Korea ..."[3] The Obama administration has reversed this trend. The last three years have seen the United States oversee its largest military exercise with South Korea since the Korean War, along with an increased troop presence to buttress the 38th Parallel.[3]

Myanmar (formerly Burma)[edit]

The Obama administration initially continued longstanding American reticence in dealing with Union of Myanmar after taking over in January 2009, preferring to prioritize broader security threats like Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan.[citation needed] Susan E. Rice, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, called the junta government's hold over Myanmar, formerly Burma, "one of the most intractable challenges for the global community". Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that the Obama administration was "looking at what steps we might take that might influence the current Myanmar government and ... looking for ways that we could more effectively help the Myanmar people", though she echoed Rice's pessimism in noting the junta's historical isolationism and disregard for economic sanctions.[61]

At the urging of Aung San Suu Kyi and the US's East Asian partners, the US held the first formal meetings with the junta in late 2009.[citation needed]

In November 2011, Obama spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi on the phone where they agreed to a visit by Secretary of State Clinton to Myanmar. Obama is expected to meet Myanmar President Thein Sein at the Sixth East Asia Summit.[62] Clinton made a two-day visit from 1 December 2011.[63] Barack Obama visited Myanmar on 18 November 2012, becoming the first sitting U.S. President to do so. Obama also visited Aung San Suu Kyi in her home.[64]


On 13 April 2009, the United States Department of State condemned violence by protesters, calling on the protesters to use their freedom of assembly in a peaceful manner.[65]


As part of Secretary Clinton's trip to East Asia in July 2012, she visited Vientiane on July 11. John Foster Dulles had been the last Secretary of State to visit Laos, 57 years earlier. During the latest visit, the two countries discussed bilateral and regional issues, including the Lower Mekong Initiative and ASEAN integration.[66] The issue of unexploded ordnance dating back to the Vietnam War was also a topic of discussion during the visit.[67]


Obama meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during his visit to Manila, Philippines, April 2014

Various factions of the Muslim Moro people are waging a war for independence against the Philippines. The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) of Nur Misuari declared its support for China against the Philippines in the South China Sea dispute, calling both China and the Moro people as victims of Philippine colonialism, and noting China's history of friendly relation with the Sultanate of Sulu in the region.[68] The MNLF also denounced America's assistance to the Philippines in their colonization of the Moro people in addition to denouncing the Philippines claims to the islands disputed with China, and denouncing America for siding with the Philippines in the dispute, noting that in 1988 China "punished" Vietnam for attempting to set up a military presence on the disputed islands, and noting that the Moros and China maintained peaceful relations, while on the other hand the Moros had to resist other colonial powers, having to fight the Spanish, fight the Americans, and fight the Japanese, in addition to fighting the Philippines.[69]

While the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) signed a peace deal with the Philippines, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) did not and renewed armed resistance against Philippine rule in Zamboanga and on 15 September 2013, in response to the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF's) fighting against the Philippine army, the New York Times published an article crediting "every" Philippine government for having "struggled" to "bring peace" to the Muslims of Mindanao since 1946 when it became independent and claimed that it is the "belief" of the Muslims that they are being subjected to oppression and exploitation by the Christians that is the "problem" which is causing the conflict and the newspaper also claimed that the conflict stretched back to 1899 when Moro "insurrectionists" were "quelled" by the American army.[70] On 26 January 2014 the New York Times published another article claiming that "every Philippine government" has "struggled to bring peace to Mindanao" and claimed that reports of exploitation and oppression by the Filipino Christians originated from what Muslims "say" and the newspaper also praised President Benigno S. Aquino III's "landmark peace deal" with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).[71]

The New York Times claimed the peace deal between the Philippines and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) "seeks to bring prosperity to the restive south and weaken the appeal of the extremist groups.", and linked the winding down of an American military counterterrorism operation to increased American military cooperation with the Philippines against China.[72] The New York Times hailed Mr Aquino's "peace agreement" as an "accomplishment" as it reported on Aquino raising the "alarm" on China in the South China Sea.[73] The New York Times editorial board published an article siding with the Philippines against China in the South China Sea dispute and supporting the Philippines actions against China.[74][75] The New York Times editorial board endorsed aggressive American military action against China in the South China Sea.[76][77]

The Moro National Liberation Front published an open letter to the United States President Barack Hussein Obama and demanded to know why America is supporting Philippine colonialism against the Moro Muslim people and the Filipino "war of genocide" and atrocities against Moros, reminding Obama that the Moro people have resisted and fought against the atrocities of Filipino, Japanese, American, and Spanish invaders, and reminding Obama of past war crimes also committed by American troops against Moro women and children like the Moro Crater massacre at Bud Dajo.[78]

The Moro National Liberation Front accused the Philippines, Japan, America, and Spain of conspiring against the Moros and recounted their invasions, imperialism, and atrocities against the Moros and demanded that they end the current colonization against the Moro people, the MNLF recounted that the Spanish were greedy colonizers, that the Americans committed massacres of Moro children and women at Mount Bagsak and Bud Dajo, and that the Japanese "exhibited tyranny, cruelty and inhumanity at its lowest level", and "had to suffer their worst defeat and highest death mortality at the hands of the Bangsamoro freedom fighters", demanding an apology from Japan for crimes committed against the Moros.[79]

The Moro National Liberation Front questioned the humanity and morality of the Philippines, Japan, America, and Spain, noting that they have done nothing to end the colonialism and war inflicted upon the Moros and reminded them that they have resisted and fought against Japanese, American, and Spanish atrocities and war crimes while the Filipinos bent over, capitulated and submitted to the invaders, the MNLF brought up the massacre committed by American troops at Bud Dajo against Moro women and children and boasted that compared to the Japanese casualty rate in the Visayas and Luzon, the amount of Japanese imperialists slaughtered by the Moro freedom fighters was greater by the thousands and that there was no capitulation like the "Fall of Bataan" to the Japanese by the Moros while the Luzon Filipinos submitted.[80] The MNLF said that the Japanese, American, and Spanish cruelty has been continued by Filipino rule.[81]

The Americans practiced colonial imperialism and American companies and Filipino Christian colonizers seized the Moro Muslims wealth and lands. The Philippine government started the war against the indigenous Moros by slaughtering them in the Jabidah Massacre of 1968. The United States under Obama has helped the Philippines wage war against both the Moro Muslims and make anti China moves in the South China sea.[82]

The Bud Dajo Massacre inflicted upon Moros were brought up by President Duterte to criticize America and President Obama.[83] The massacre was cited a second time by Duterte in criticizing America while calling for the exit of American troops.[84]

A demonstration against American military was held by Moro Muslims and against the war by Lumads was held by Moro Muslims and Lumads in front of the United States Embassy in the Philippines, but the demonstrators were violently assaulted by the police.[85]

The Moro National Liberation Front's website said that China was being targeted by the United States' presence on Moro land, calling this plan of the United States' as "diabolical", the MNLF also slammed the ignoring of the Mindanao situation by Amnesty International and the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations, attacking America over cases of Moro people who were murdered by American troops and the fact that Lumads and Muslims are subjected to persecution and accusing the American government of turning a blind eye to it. The website accused the military of the United States of possibly building Abu Sayyaf to give a reason for its military being stationed in Palawan, Sulu, and Mindanao on Moro lands, by the excuse of terrorism, accusing them of having a "dark hidden agenda" and reminded people that Abu Sayyaf has been fought against by the MNLF which suffered deaths in the battles.[86]

Moros have been targeted with drones by the United States.[87]

A crowd of Muslims were attending a speech by Duterte where he accused America of bringing terrorism to themselves, saying that terrorism is not the result of the Middle East.[88] He railed against the actions undertaken in the Middle East by the USA.[89] Duterte blamed the war on Mindanao on colonialist Christianity being brought to the Philippines in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan saying there was peace before that, and that they were made to fight their "Malay brother" by Christians.[90]

Duterte was endorsed in the election by Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari[91] due to his background in Mindanao.[92] Jesus Dureza was his second choice.[93] Other Muslims also supported Duterte and denounced Roxas, the Aquino supported pick.[94]


The United States has increased its military presence in Indochina. In the 1990s, Washington rebuffed Vietnam's requests for more defense ties. This all changed in 2010 when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for the first time since the Vietnam War, called for a U.S.–Vietnamese strategic partnership. "Since then, the U.S. Navy has held annual exercises with the Vietnamese navy, and in 2011, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation."[3]

The Obama Administration has attempted to capitalize on the much evolved relations between the United States and Vietnam since the end of the Vietnam War. The formal normalization of relations occurred in 1995, subsequently expanding under both the Clinton and Bush Administrations with dialogues and agreements on human rights, civil aviation, and free trade. In August 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense and Vietnam's Ministry of Defense held the first round of high-level defense talks, known as the Defense Policy Dialogue.[95] Secretary of State has visited the country three times during her tenure, discussing such topics as regional integration, North Korea, Burma, cyber security and maritime rights in the South China Sea.[96]

According to the Cham advocacy group International Office of Champa (IOC-Champa), both Hindu and Muslim Chams have experienced religious and ethnic persecution and restrictions on their faith under the current Vietnamese government, with the Vietnamese state confisticating Cham property and forbidding Cham from observing their religious beliefs. Hindu temples were turned into tourist sites against the wishes of the Cham Hindus.[97] Cham Muslims in the Mekong Delta have also been economically marginalized, with ethnic Vietnamese settling on land previously owned by Cham people with state support.[98]

According to a National Geographic article published by journalist Adam Bray, Vietnamese government fears that evidence of Champa's influence over the disputed area in the South China Sea would bring attention to human rights violations and killings of ethnic minorities in Vietnam such as in the 2001 and 2004 uprisings, and lead to the issue of Cham autonomy being brought into the dispute, since the Vietnamese conquered Cham people in a war in 1832, and the Vietnamese continue to destroy evidence of Cham culture and artifacts left behind, plundering or building on top of Cham temples, building farms over them, banning Cham religious practices, and omitting references to the destroyed Cham capital of Song Luy in the 1832 invasion in history books and tourist guides. The situation of Cham compared to ethnic Vietnamese is substandard, lacking water and electricity and living in houses made out of mud.[99] The Cham activist organization "International Office of Champa" republished Bray's article on their website Cham Today.[100]

The Vietnamese government is still persecuting Montagnards and accusing them of being FULRO members as late as 2012 and blaming FULRO for the 2004 and 2001 riots against Vietnamese rule in the Central Highlands, even though FULRO has not existed for decades. The United States under President Obama, because of its anti-China policy and trying to lure Vietnam as an ally to the USA against China, is deliberately ignoring the persecution of Montagnards, instead only criticizing Vietnam for cracking down on a Vietnamese blogger.[101][102]

Obama, Bush, American business interests, and American liberals deliberately ignore human rights violations and persecution committed by the Vietnamese Communists against the Montagnards as the Vietnamese government's friendship to America is desired by Obama. Human rights organizations and reporters are forbidden to enter the Central Highlands by the Vietnamese. The Vietnamese have murdered, jailed, and tortured Montagnards in order to deny their religious rights and diplomatic cables from Michael Michalak, ambassador of the USA in Vietnam, which were released by Wikileaks, indicated that the United States cares nothing about and pays no attention to the persecution Montagnards suffer at the hands of the Vietnamese as noted by Scott Johnson. The reason for these actions by the United States is due to the desire for Vietnamese trade by American businesses and an anti-China policy that sought Vietnam as an ally by Obama and Bush. This meant that the United States administration shows no concern and pays no attention to the catalogue of human rights abuses which are recorded by organizations like the Montagnard Foundation since the impoverished Montagnards suffer from Vietnamese policies like deforestation, mining, plantation farming, slaughter, abuse, and jail after the takeover by the Vietnamese Communists in 1975. The desire for low cast Vietnamese scab workers by American businesses plays into the ignoring of Vietnamese discrimination and human rights violations in contrast to the intervention in Libya which was enthusiastically supported by American liberals.[103]

The de-listing of Vietnam by the US State Department was criticized by the Montagnards due to Vietnam's continued arrests and abuse of Montagnards due to religion.[104]

The Hillary Clinton linked Podesta Group helped lobby for permission for Vietnam to buy weapons from the United States while Vietnam repress, abuses, and jails opponents. It was claimed that human rights would be promoted by weapons sales by President Obama. The situation in Vietnam was hailed by Obama and Clinton.[105]

Extreme anti-Vietnamese sentiment due to Vietnam's conquest of previously Cambodian lands which are still under Vietnamese rule and hundreds of years of Vietnamese invasions, Vietnamese settlers in Cambodia and Vietnam's military subjugation of Cambodia, has led to extreme anti-Vietnamese feelings against ethnic Vietnamese in Cambodia and against Vietnam, and in turn has led to pro-China sentiment among the Cambodian government and the Cambodian oopposition, including in the South China Sea, leaving Americans unaware of this to be puzzled by pro-China leanings in Southeast Asia.[106]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ Goldberg, Jeffrey. "The Obama Doctrine". Retrieved 26 August 2016. 
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  14. ^ Le, Matthew (27 February 2009). "U.S. complains about China's human rights record". Associated Press. 
  15. ^ Liang, Yan (26 February 2009). "Full Text of Human Rights Record of United States in 2008". Xinhua. 
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