Washington - While the competition for influence between the US and China in Southeast Asia need not be a zero-sum game, Washington cannot afford to take its strong economic and political ties with countries in the region for granted. That was the message of top American envoys at a recent seminar in the US capital.
Mr Frank Lavin, the US Ambassador to Singapore, noted that Asean's growing integration with China is likely to continue. "It is a reminder to Washington that it should not take its strong political and economic relationships with Asean for granted," he said at a conference organised by the US-Asean Business Council.
His counterpart to Malaysia, Mr Christopher Lafleur, said China's rising prominence does not have to come at the expense of American interests in Asia. "It is not a zero-sum calculation. The US, Japan and China can all benefit from increased cooperation among countries in Asia."
Mr Lafleur called for Washington to continue engaging China and other Asian countries.
On the issue of terrorism, the envoys noted that the US continues to enjoy close cooperation with governments in the region. "The terror threat in the region has abated significantly," Mr Lanvin said.
But the Ambassador to Indonesia, Mr Lynn Pascoe, warned against complacency. "It would be foolish to think that the government has accomplished all that needs to be done. Several key terrorists are still at large."
Mr Lanvin describes Singapore as a "trophy target" for terrorists. "The country is frequently aligned with the US on various issues. It is also prosperous and an attack would cause serious economic disruption," he added.
* Envoys push for closer US ties with S-E Asia (The Straits Times, May 26)