Singapore – The issue of US engagement in Asia – or the lack of it – was the subject of some debate during the Eisenhower Fellowships conference on June 27. Mr Kishore Mahbubani, Singapore’s former ambassador to the United Nations, sparked a lively discussion when he suggested that the US had drawn inwards after the Cold War ended.
Mr Mahbubani said the US had started a process of "thoughtless disengagement with the world", and this led to instability in places such as the Middle East.
His view was not shared by Mr Ralph Boyce, the US envoy to Thailand. Mr Boyce argued that if the world’s only superpower was not firmly established in Asia, it would not have been able to launch its aid in Indonesia to help victims of the Dec 26 tsunami so quickly.
Mr Boyce added that the US was committed to Asia and played significant roles in environmental and health issues and the effort against human trafficking.
Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tony Tan, when asked whether the US was paying enough attention to Asia, replied that Washington was playing a major role around the world and in Asia, especially on issues such as counter-terrorism.
But Mr Tan, who delivered the opening speech at the conference, added that interaction between the US and Asia was a "two-way exchange".
He said both sides had to engage each other through networks and institutions such as the Eisenhower Fellowships and US-Asean Business Council. The Eisenhower Fellowship is a network of emerging leaders from around the world. The two-day meeting focused on Asia's emerging order and America's role, as well as Asia's global companies.
* US ‘thoughtlessly disengaged from Asia?’ (The Straits Times, June 26)