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. US influence in Asia at risk of dwindling: US experts
WASHINGTON (AFP) Nov 15, 2004
US influence in Asia is at risk of seriously diminishing if Washington fails to undertake a more coherent policy in the region that goes beyond its concerns with terrorism and nuclear proliferation, US experts on Asia said in a report released Monday.

"Asians do not have a sense that the United States follows a coherent and integrated strategy," said Stapleton Roy, a former US ambassador to China and Indonesia in the 1990s and a co-author of the "America's Role in Asia" report released here by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation.

The United States has strong relations with the major powers in Asia and the United States is well placed to face to face challenges in the region, Roy said.

"However, without a more coherent and integrated strategy which links our approaches to East Asia with our policies in South and Southeast Asia, and which extends well beyond countering terrorism and checking nuclear proliferation, we could see American influence in the area seriously diminished," the report says.

The report, presented by its authors on Monday, was accompanied by a sister study written by Asian experts who discussed their views in Washington in May.

The Asian experts warned that anti-US sentiment was rising in Asia despite a dramatic improvement in relations between Washington and Asian governments, an assessment the US experts also endorsed.

It was the third "America's Role in Asia" report released in the last 12 years by the Asia Foundation, a non-governmental organization supporting government and development programs in Asia.

"The Asian region remains a success story, but it's a success story that also contains three of the most dangerous issues in the world today," Roy said, referring to concerns over North Korea's nuclear ambitions, China's relations with Taiwan and the Indian-Pakistani dispute over Kashmir.

"The stakes are high in terms of whether we get our policies right in the region," the former ambassador said.

Northeast Asia will likely "command lots of attention" from President George W. Bush's administration in the next four years, said Michael Armacost, a former US ambassador to Japan from 1989-1993.

North Korea must become a top issue of concern for the Bush administration, said Armacost, who was also under secretary of state for political affairs under President Ronald Reagan.

"They really need to get serious about the North Korean issue," he said.

Armacost praised the Bush administration for boosting relations with three giants in the region: Russia, China and Japan.

"It has managed simultaneously to improve relations with Japan, China and Russia, and that's no small accomplishment, whether its serendipitous or whether its the by-product of a conscious effort," he said.

Prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks South Asia was a matter of concern "but not yet one of alarm" for Washington, said Stephen Cohen, a foreign policy expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

The attacks led to deep US involvement in the region, with a military campaign to oust the Taliban Islamic regime in Afghanistan and hunt for Al-Qaeda operatives in the nation neighboring Pakistan, Cohen wrote in the report.

Regarding Kashmir, the United States should encourage dialogue between India and Pakistan but should not come up with its own resolution on the dispute, Cohen said.

Catharin Dalpino, a Southeast Asian studies professor at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins universities, wrote in the report that September 11 caused an "abrupt shift" in US relations with Southeast Asia, placing the region as a "'second front' in the war against terrorism."

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