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Monday, February 22, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Southeast Asia, Australasia, and the Pacific Islands

Bruce Vaughn, Coordinator
Specialist in Asian Affairs

The United States has many interests in Southeast Asia, Australasia, and the Pacific Islands, in keeping with the wide variety of countries in the region. It includes U.S. allies (Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines) and key strategic friends (including Singapore), two ideologically moderate, majority-Muslim democracies (Malaysia and Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country), one of the world's busiest waterways (the Straits of Malacca, through which half the world's oil shipments pass), sites of deadly terrorist attacks, a former adversary in the process of transforming itself into a quasi-market economy (Vietnam), and a "rogue" state whose human rights record and foreign policy have triggered extensive U.S. sanctions (Burma, or Myanmar). 

Southeast Asia has emerged as the hub for discussions of Asian economic and security architectures. Proximity to China, India, and Japan has increasingly made the region a center for strategic and economic rivalry. In the past several years China has significantly increased foreign aid, trade, and its diplomatic presence in the region. Some believe these ties may serve as a basis for China's cultivation of security relationships in Southeast Asia at the expense of U.S. interests in the future. Other observers argue that China's rise in the region does not threaten the position of the United States and may be of growing concern to some regional states.

Date of Report: January 15, 2010
Number of Pages: 3
Order Number: IS40388
Price: $7.95