Security Challenges
Volume 16, No.3 (2020)

Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific Concepts: From Resistance to Reticence to Reaction

The Indo-Pacific concepts have been front and centre for a number of the most important actors in the region — the United States, Japan, India and Australia. While their respective understandings of the Indo Pacific are yet to be developed, one thing is clear — the “Indo-Pacific” needs to be taken note of. Southeast Asia has been an important venue for the promotion of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP) strategy or at least the US version of it. It was in Da Nang, Vietnam, at the APEC Summit in November 2017 that US President Donald Trump first used the terminology. In the following months, a number of important speeches and discussion on the concept further elaborated the American, Australian, Indian and Japanese views on the Indo-Pacific. In June 2018 at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, speeches delivered by the US Defence Secretary, then General Mattis, India’s Prime Minister Narenda Modi, and the Japanese and Australian Defence Ministers, Itsunor Onoder and Marise Payne, all laid out the importance of the concept and emphasised ASEAN centrality. Later that year at the November East Asia Summit (EAS), US Vice-President Mike Pence gave his articulation of the United States’ preferred vision of the regional order. In 2019, similar efforts to promote the FOIP were made by US Admiral Philip Davidson, the Indo-Pacific Commander, who toured Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines.

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