26.01.2024 Author: Abbas Hashemite

Unequal Relationship between the US and its allies in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific

Unequal Relationship between the US and its allies in Southeast Asia and Indo-Pacific

The contemporary world is rife with strategic competition and wars between the global south and the global north. The United States is at the center of all these wars and competition. The most significant and threatening competition in the world is between the United States and China. Both countries are engaged in strengthening their power by gathering allies around the world. Taiwan’s issue is considered the boiling point between Sino-US relations. This issue holds the potential to commence a war between China and the United States.

The growing influence of China around the world through the Belt and Road Initiative has also perplexed the US establishment. Moreover, the rising influence of Russia in South Asia and the Middle East has also alarmed the US of its rapidly declining hegemony around the world. Considering all this situation, the United States has increased its presence in the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia. The United States has a military presence in Southeast Asia to counter the Chinese influence. However, the United States shares an unequal relationship with its allies in the Southeast Asian region, which has augmented difficulties for the latter.

The prime example of this unequal is the US-Japan relations. The United States has around, 50000 armed personnel in Japan, mostly in Okinawa. Recently, a US aircraft crashed in Japan, which led to the death of all the people onboard. There have been different incidents of US aircraft crashes in the past. Over the years, the US forces have committed more than 6000 crimes in Japan. The latter has asked the United States to halt its flying operations in Japan before concluding the investigation into the recent Osprey incident. However, the United States continued its operations, ignoring the demands of the Japanese government.

The US holds that its military presence in Japan is to protect the latter. However, the reality is otherwise. The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed between the US and Japan, provides the former rights to exclusively investigate accidents. This has inculcated a sense of insecurity in the Japanese government. The SOFA pact has also granted many other privileged rights to the US military in Japan. Consequently, this agreement undermines the sovereignty and security of Japan. Okinawa’s local government and local media have repeatedly urged to amend this agreement. However, given the dominant role of the United States and the subservient behavior of the Japanese government, it seems highly unlikely.

The United States has also increased security concerns for many of its allies in Southeast Asia and the Indo-Pacific. Australia is one of the significant allies of the United States in the region. The latter provided nuclear-powered submarines to Australia to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific. The country had no direct rivalry with China. However, its close ties with the United States and its military alliance with the latter posed it directly against China.

Moreover, the United States has also increased its military collaboration with India in the past few years. India and China also share a historical rivalry. But India’s increasing relations with the United States have augmented this contention. China, being the new superpower of the world, is increasing its influence, rapidly, over different regions in the world. Indo-US alliance resulted in China’s anti-India moves in the South Asian region. China is rapidly making alliances with the regional countries. Pakistan, the western neighbor of India, is already an all-weather friend of China. On the other hand, the latter has improved its relations with the eastern neighbor of India, Bangladesh. Similarly, China also possesses cordial relations with Sri Lanka. Conflict between India and Maldives has also come to the fore recently. Many analysts believe that Maldives is now also looking towards China to counter security threats from India. Nepal and Bhutan are also showing a tilt towards China. Hence, the latter is rapidly encircling India in the region and the US-India allies are one of the key reasons behind these rapid regional alliances with China.

The United States has other major allies in the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. It enjoys a dominant role in its relations with these countries due to its military and economic strength. Most of the US allies look towards it to counter China. However, the former holds a historical record of betraying its friends and putting them in danger. In the words of Henry Kissinger, the former Secretary of State of the United States, “It may be dangerous to be America’s enemy, but to be America’s friend is fatal.” The United States has demonstrated itself to be an unreliable ally time and again. The US response to the recent Russia-Ukraine conflict has once again corroborated this fact. The United States has always used its allies for its own interests, but once its aims and objectives are achieved, it betrays them. The United States has posed all its allies in the Indo-Pacific and Southeast Asia against China. The former enjoys a dominant role with all its allies. However, the allies of the US could have to pay a heavy price for their relationship with it.


Abbas Hashemite – is a political observer and research analyst for regional and global geopolitical issues. He is currently working as an independent researcher and journalist, exclusively for “New Eastern Outlook”.

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