Archive for November, 2012

Burma and the U.S. Pivot to Asia: Commentary from Asian Powers

Last week, U.S. President Barack Obama visited three Southeast Asian countries in his first foreign trip after being reelected. The Asian media’s attention has focused on Obama’s visit to Burma, and as we point out in this post, the Indians are highlighting Obama’s trip as a continuation of the U.S. pivot, while the Chinese are downplaying its significance. For South Koreans, Burma’s liberalization evoked comparisons with North Korea’s political development.


  • An op-ed in the Times of India expressed strong support for the U.S. pivot, listing a series of concrete measures that show the “seriousness of the competition for influence” and the “enduring impact of American democracy’s soft power” in Burma.
  • Even The Hindu, generally more skeptical of U.S. power, gave credit to the Obama administration for crafting a Burma policy that is both more strategic and pragmatic than that of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
  • The Indian Express, in contrast, was much more supportive of Indian foreign policy, arguing that Obama’s visit “vindicates” India’s past policy of gradually promoting change by engaging rather than isolating Burma. In the larger context of this U.S. pivot to Asia, Express columnist C. Raja Mohan noted that “smaller nations of Asia are caught in a bind.” He urged the Indian government to take on more responsibility as a rising power to “mitigate great power tensions and defuse regional conflicts in Asia.”


  • Don’t read too much into Myanmar visit,” ran the headline of a Global Times editorial. Noting that the Chinese Foreign Ministry did not react negatively to Obama’s visit, the paper said this “shows China’s confidence” and that “it doesn’t have to overreact.” (more…)
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With Obama’s re-election, Asian powers ponder future relations with US

For months, Asian powers have been closely following the US presidential election campaign. With President Barack Obama now re-elected, this post highlights views from Russia, India, South Korea, Japan and China on what this means for bilateral relations with the United States.


Obama’s victory generated sighs of relief among Russian leadership, despite dissenting opinions among some observers.

Russia’s ruling elite broadly welcomed Obama’s reelection:

  • Dmitry Peskov, spokesman for President Vladimir Putin, stated, “The Kremlin greets the information about Barack Obama’s election victory very positively. We hope to develop and improve the positive initiatives in bilateral relations between Russia and the US in the interests of internal security and stability on the world stage.”
  • Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev expressed open relief that Russia wouldn’t have to deal with Mitt Romney. “I am pleased that the president…will not be someone who considers Russia as enemy number one,” referencing statements made by Romney on the campaign trail.

Despite well-wishes from Russian officials, some analysts and opposition leaders remained skeptical about the level of progress that can be made. US plans to build a missile defense shield in Europe, the ongoing civil war in Syria, and the future of the US-Russia “reset” figured prominently in their calculations for  the future.

  • Fyodor Lykyanov, editor-in-chief of Russia in Global Affairs, wrote that “The two countries must realize that they will never enjoy linear relations – they will neither be unequivocal foes or genuine allies…a desire to achieve full clarity, in whatever field, undermines all attempts to create a solid foundation for relations, whereas a willingness to be flexible on current issues makes it possible to achieve concrete results.” (more…)
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