sidang kemuncak AS-ASEAN yang ditangguhkan: Bagaimana mereka menutupinya

US-ASEANFoto: White House

A melihat bagaimana media bertindak balas kepada kisah terbesar dalam seminggu.

The COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak continues to dominate global and regional headlines. As Chinese President Xi Jinping tolak ke belakang plans to visit his Japanese counterpart, there was a sense of inevitability about the postponement of the planned US-ASEAN summit in Las Vegas, even before the city reported its first case. Here is a summary of how the region’s press outlets covered a story that went from what might, to what might have been.

The summit would have been an opportunity for the US to rebuild bridges

The setback came with relations between the US and Southeast Asia at a low ebb. US President Donald Trump has not attended the last two ASEAN summits and sent his security advisor, Robert O’Brien, to last year’s event in Bangkok.

Sidang kemuncak AS-ASEAN tahun ini dijadualkan pada pertengahan Mac dan semua 10 Ketua negara ASEAN telah dijemput, sebagai The Bangkok Post dilaporkan. Laporan mereka mendakwa lima orang (mereka dari Kemboja, Laos, singapore, Thailand dan Vietnam) dijangka hadir.

The Jakarta Post mengesahkan bahawa Presiden Indonesia Joko Widodo sudah bersedia untuk menuju ke Las Vegas, di mana dia juga bersedia untuk perbincangan satu lawan satu dengan Trump.

Sementara itu, Perdana Menteri Kemboja, Hun Sen, walaupun negaranya semakin meningkat dengan China - kelihatan optimis mengenai sidang kemuncak itu. "Saya ingin memberitahu para penganalisis ini untuk memahami mengapa AS mengukuhkan hubungan ASEAN, yang merupakan tujuan sebenar mereka," beliau berkata.

Apa yang cuba dicapai oleh Trump?

Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump.
Foto: Gage Skidmore

Tidak jelas apa yang ingin dicapai Trump sekiranya sidang kemuncak itu berlangsung. Walaupun ada spekulasi bahawa isu Laut China Selatan ada dalam agenda, menulis dalam The Bangkok Post, Kavi Chongkittavorn provided a detailed analysis of how the summit might have played out.

He suggested Trump was going to spend only a few hours with the leaders en bloc. With one eye on his upcoming re-election bid, Chongkittavorn poses the question that he might have been planning on playing a ‘divide and reward’ game with ASEAN members, focusing heavily instead on bilateral meetings.

Despite Trump’s seeming reluctance to treat ASEAN as a group, there were plans, Chongkittavorn wrote, for a simultaneous Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI) summit intending to increase US assistance towards development projects. It could have been (and may well be) a step in the right direction for both parties.

But would it have been too little, terlalu lambat? "sekarang, 236 days before his presidency expires, he has still not had any meaningful meeting with the ASEAN 10. Yet he wants to make a difference in ASEAN under his watch," dia menulis. He claims US officials were “relieved” about the postponement as they felt the summit would produce few, jika ada, “deliverable milestones”.

What should the US do next?

Writing in Diplomat, Charles Dunst and Hunter Marston claimed that even though the summit won’t take place in March, and may not go ahead at all, the US still has a prominent role to play in Southeast Asia in 2020, as China increases its hegemony in the region.

“The Trump administration would be wise to adopt a strategy that appeals to Southeast Asian partners wary of alienating Beijing," they advised. “First, Washington should avoid creating rival blocs in Southeast Asia by forcing regional partners to support the Trump administration’s attempts to contain China. If the administration wants regional partners to lean toward Washington and support its FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific) penglihatan, it must appeal to them on their own terms rather than prodding them to line up in an anti-China coalition.”

They also urged the US to step up their diplomacy and to avoid trying to outdo China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with its own projects in the region.

Just by inviting ASEAN leaders and planning on attending, Trump has already shown more willingness to engage with ASEAN than he has done in the last two years. It will take more time to undo some of the damage he has done, but it is in both parties’ interest to rebuild bridges.

Once the coronavirus threat has cleared, the speed at which the summit is rescheduled might offer a clue to how seriously the Trump administration is prepared to take its relationship with the region. More pertinently, mungkin, how readily ASEAN’s leaders again commit to attending might be a better indicator of which direction the partnership is heading.