EWC in Washington and ISEAS Release Special Journal Issue on America's Re-Engagement in Southeast Asia

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Jan.18, 2011) — A collaborative research project between the East-West Center (EWC) and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS) has resulted in a special issue of Contemporary Southeast Asia , ISEAS’ internationally refereed journal on the politics, international relations, and security-related issues of Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic environment. The collection of articles by American and Southeast Asian specialists featured in the journal’s recently released December 2010 issue focus on the topic of America Re-engages Southeast Asia .


“This focus on Southeast Asia is an important element of the current administration’s overall focus on U.S. relations with the Asia Pacific – a focus which represents one of the most significant periods of U.S. regional activism in decades,” notes Dr. Satu Limaye, director of the East-West Center in Washington.


In this light, the East-West Center brought together a group of U.S. regional specialists and Southeast Asian commentators to examine issues facing U.S. engagement with the region. The bilateral relationships examined include U.S. involvement with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Burma/Myanmar, and Vietnam.


The experts who contributed to the publication include:


  • Cambodia/Laos: Carlyle A. Thayer , Professor of Politics, the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra, Australia, and Vatthana Pholsena , Research Fellow at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in Paris and currently affiliated with the Institut d’Asie Orientale in Lyons, France.
  • Indonesia: Ann Marie Murphy , Associate Professor at the Whitehead School of Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University, New Jersey, and Meidyatama Suryodiningrat , Editor-in-Chief of the Jakarta Post in Indonesia.
  • Burma/Myanmar: Priscilla Clapp , former US Chargée d’Affaires in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar, and Harn Yawnghwe , Executive Director of the Euro-Burma Office in Brussels, Belgium.
  • Vietnam: Frederick Z. Brown , Visiting Research Scholar at the Southeast Asia Studies Department of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, Washington, D.C., USA, and Hoang Anh Tuan , diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hanoi, Vietnam.





The East-West Centerpromotes better relations and understanding among the people and nations of the United States, Asia, and the Pacific through cooperative study, research, and dialogue. Established by the US Congress in 1960 with current facilities in Honolulu and Washington, D.C., the Center serves as a resource for information and analysis on critical issues of common concern, bringing people together to exchange views, build expertise, and develop policy options.


Contemporary Southeast Asia is an internationally refereed journal that specializes in the politics, international relations, and security-related issues of Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic environment. The Institute of Southeast Asian Studies is a regional research centre dedicated to the study of socio-political, security and economic trends and developments in Southeast Asia and its wider geostrategic and economic environment. The aim of the Institute is to nurture a community of scholars interested in the region and to engage in research on the multi-faceted dimensions and issues of stability and security, economic development, and political, social and cultural change .


Contemporary Southeast Asia special issue

A central challenge in US relations with Southeast Asia has always been calibrating relations among ASEAN, Southeast Asia in the context of wider regional and global policies, and bilateral relations with other countries. The East-West Center convened a group of leading American specialists, together with responses from the countries themselves, to discuss recent US “re-engagement” with Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam, and Myanmar/Burma. The results were published in the Contemporary Southeast Asia journal in December.


Contemporary Southeast Asia, Vol. 32/3 (Dec 2010). Special Focus on "America Re-engages Southeast Asia", published by ISEAS .




Introduction: America's Bilateral Relations with Southeast Asia - Constraints and Promise, by Satu P Limaye


This special issue of Contemporary Southeast Asia examining United States bilateral relations with Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos and Vietnam, and specifically the mutual efforts at "rapprochement", "re-engagement" or "revitalization", is informed by several considerations. First, the Obama administration took office with a declared commitment to improve relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as an organization and moved with alacrity to implement a number of policy decisions to that end. Second, and in parallel, the administration highlighted opportunities for broader and deeper bilateral relations with specific ASEAN member countries…Together, this focus on Southeast Asia is an important element of the current administration’s overall focus on US relations with the Asia Pacific — a focus which represents one of the most significant periods of US regional activism in decades.


Rapprochement Between Vietnam and the United States, by Frederick Brown and Hoang Anh Tuan


The improvement of bilateral relations between Vietnam and the United States has added a fresh dynamic to the geopolitics of Southeast Asia. This article discusses the laborious process of normalization of political relations between 1976 and 1995. It describes the course of economic normalization from the signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2001 and granting of Permanent Normal Trading Relations in 2006 to Vietnam's accession to the World Trade Trade Organization in 2007. ...


US Rapprochement with Indonesia: From Problem State to Partner, by Ann Marie Murphy and Meidyatama Suryodiningrat


Over the past decade US relations with Indonesia have undergone a dramatic rapprochement such that today officials in both countries claim relations are at an all time high. Indonesia's transition to democracy and its adoption of effective counter-terrorism strategies laid the basis for the rapprochement. At a time when the Bush Doctrine advocated democracy as an antidote to terrorism, the Indonesian experience appeared to vindicate the logic of US policy. ...


Prospects for Rapprochement Between the United States and Myanmar, by Priscilla Clapp and Harn Yawnghwe


Held in a virtual state of suspended animation for the past twenty years, US relations with Myanmar have received fresh scrutiny as the country undergoes a political transition from martial law to quasi-parliamentary governance. As a result, the Obama administration has fashioned a new policy of pragmatic engagement to balance US sanctions against Myanmars military regime, to reinvigorate Americas relations with ASEAN and to create a more flexible policy structure for fashioning US responses to a variety of possible outcomes in Myanmars transition process. ...


US Rapprochement with Laos and Cambodia, by Carlyle A. Thayer and Vatthana Pholsena


This study analyzes the process of rapprochement in United States relations with Laos and Cambodia. It discusses the key domestic and international factors that influenced decision-making in Washington, Vientiane and Phnom Penh to initiate this process. US-Lao rapprochement has evolved gradually since the mid-1980s. Lao assistance in accounting for US servicemen missing-in-action during the Vietnam War was a key driver. ...