Asia's Game of Thrones
Obama’s Asia Pivot Policy Still Bearing Sour Fruit

Cheer up about failing to get Assad to give up his chemical weapons in Syria, President Obama. Surely your foreign policy legacy in Asia is more secure.

Oh, wait

A U.S. Navy aid unit has been told to leave Cambodia, the U.S. embassy said, in a new sign of the Southeast Asian country loosening links with Washington as it strengthens ties with Beijing.

The departure of the U.S. Navy Mobile Construction Battalion – known as the Seabees – meant the cancellation of 20 planned projects, including at schools and hospitals, the embassy said on its Facebook page on Monday.

Well, maybe it’s just a fluke—who needs Cambodia anyway?

Oh, wait

China and Southeast Asian countries have made progress in talks on a code of conduct for the disputed South China Sea, the Philippine acting foreign minister said on Tuesday.

China claims almost the entire waterway, through which about $5 trillion in sea-borne goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.

“We have made good progress on coming up with a framework for a code on conduct with China,” Philippine Acting Foreign Minister Enrique Manalo said, adding the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China were more than halfway through identifying the contents.

“From a scale of 1-10, we are at the upper level. Remember, we were starting from zero in January. There have been a number of elements agreed and we would definitely have a framework on which to embark a serious negotiation on a code of conduct.”

(Some context: China has been supporting ASEAN code-of-conduct talks since August as a way to sideline Washington. It appears to be working.)

Obama’s vision of a multilateral regional coalition appears to be in tatters. President Trump may not mind, as he doesn’t appear to intrinsically value such things anyway. Still, he may find that the kinds of deals he wants in the region would have been easier to come by had his predecessor been more successful.

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