On the eve of a visit to
Indonesia for the East
Asia Summit [EAS], U.S. President Barack Obama dropped a bombshell: He
announced a deal with Australia that would practically turn the port city of
Darwin into a U.S. military base. For Indonesia, and for most Southeast Asian
nations for that matter, the move isn't the signal they were looking for in
terms of greater U.S. engagement with Asia.
According to the plan, as
many as 2,500 Marines will be stationed in Darwin, effectively adding another
fully-fledged U.S. military base to those that already exist in Okinawa, Japan
and South Korea.
The presence of a U.S. base
just south of Indonesia is simply too close for comfort. Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said
that Indonesia had been informed of Australia's decision. But to prevent
misunderstandings and tensions, he was right to insist on greater transparency when
it comes to the security scenarios being envisaged by the U.S. and Australia.
In the face of rising
tensions in the South China Sea, it has been reported that the purpose of the
base is to strengthen the projection of U.S. power. China and some smaller
Southeast Asian nations have competing territorial South China Sea claims. The
timing of Obama’s announcement is bound to stir controversy.
In recognition of their
geopolitical interests and the role they could play in a rapidly developing
Asia, the EAS has been expanded this year to include the U.S. and Russia. But
there are many ways other than a greater military presence for improving U.S.
engagement. As EAS host, Indonesia should ensure that the forum isn't turned into
just another discussion of regional security, and includes other issues more
central to improving human living standards.
As for the choice of location
for the base, has America ever heard the expression “not in my backyard” - NIMBY?
Help Support Worldmeets.us
Worldmeets.us is a non-partisan, volunteer-based, not-for-profit organization that operates solely in the public interest. The opinions expressed in articles posted by Worldmeets.us are not necessarily those of Worldmeets.us, its sponsors or its volunteers.