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September 21, 2017

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East Asia is in reconstruction

BEIJING -- The established equilibrium and political order in East Asia are undergoing delicate changes at a time when the world is sill struggling to recover from the effects of the global financial crisis and its ensuing repercussions.

Such changes stem from strategic adjustments in the East Asia policy of the United States. As the world's dominant power, the U.S. has long been the most important external factor affecting East Asia's political and economic landscape.

Washington's attitude toward East Asian cooperation has always been consistent. It will remain as an observer if the cooperation process does not pose a threat to what it views as its own vested interests in the region. However, once cooperative momentum is considered a challenge to its national interests, the U.S. will intervene and stop the process. This was clearly embodied in Washington's efforts to suffocate the East Asia Economic Sphere concept proposed by Malaysia and the East Asian Monetary Fund advocated by Japan in the 1990s.

East Asian cooperation has made substantial progress and entered a crucial stage since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 diverted the focus and resources of the U.S. to the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. What the U.S. currently cares about most in the region is getting a share of the dividend created by the accelerated integration in East Asia, and at the same time, guarding against a possible challenge by some emerging regional powers to U.S. dominance.

The strength of the U.S. has been weakened by the global financial crisis and it will gradually retreat from its over-stretched strategic deployment worldwide. But in East Asia, the U.S. has quietly but noticeably launched a new round of strategic offensives.

By signing the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with Southeast Asian countries, the U.S. has actively involved itself in a series of forums spearheaded by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Mekong River Commission conferences. Washington has also staged a string of bilateral and multilateral military exercises with some East Asian allies in a bid to strengthen already-established alliances. Washington has also shown great enthusiasm toward participating in East Asian cooperation in a wider and deeper manner.

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