Kuala Lumpur - The United States may not be the most popular country in Asia these days but it would not be in the region’s interest to isolate the superpower, said former US Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The United States has played a key role in keeping peace and security in the region, especially in troubled areas such as the Korean peninsula and the China-Taiwan conflict, the Associated Press quoted him as telling some 300 Malaysian corporate leaders at a dialogue session on June 16.
Mr Powell was commenting on the remarks made by former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who was a guest speaker at the dialogue. Dr Mahathir had protested against the strong US presence in the region.
Mr Powell also explained why the US is opposed to organisations that seek to shut out Washington, such as the proposed East Asian trading bloc which Dr Mahathir proposed a decade ago.
“We get a little bit uneasy, to be frank, whenever we see organisations being formed not just to deal with regional issues but has part of its agenda to push back and isolate the US.”
In an indirect reference to the inaugural East Asian Summit - to which Washington has yet to be invited - Mr Powell said: "Be careful about trying to push theUnited States away because our presence in Asia has served the region’s purpose for all these years. It is in Asia’s interest for the United States to be a player in all the relevant organisations."
The summit, which will be held in Kuala Lumpur in December, involves the 10 Southeast Asian nations, China, Japan, South Korea and India.
While Mr Powell and Dr Mahathir were at odds over issue of US presence in Asia, they did agree on one thing: The international community has to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a main cause of anger in the Muslim world, to combat terrorism.
* Asia must not isolate US, warns Powell (The Straits Times, June 18)