The United States is trying to forge better relations with countries in the Southeast Asian Region. Diplomatic efforts were made through the working visit of the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. The visit, which was the first time since Joe Biden formed his cabinet, was certainly not without purpose.
On Monday, December 13, 2021, Anthony Blinken officially met and held talks with President Joko Widodo at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta. The next day, Tuesday, December 14, 2021, the US Secretary of State delivered his speech at the University of Indonesia, which is a leading university in Jakarta. Anthony Blinken said that his working visit to Southeast Asia was intended to strengthen cooperation and partnerships to maintain the international rules-based order.
Although he did not explicitly mention it, Blinken's statement is very likely intended to allude to the steps taken by China both in Southeast Asia and in the South China Sea Region.
In a speech in front of the University of Indonesia academic community, the US Secretary of State reiterated his government's determination not to recognize China's claims to parts of the South China Sea.
For China and the United States, the South China Sea is a strategic area, both geopolitically, especially for the Indo-Pacific Region, as well as economically. China views the South China Sea in terms of the strategy of reviving its defense strategy, and the Silk Road through the sea. The United States views the strategic position of the marine area from a defense perspective as well as the position of international trade routes.
Both China and the United States, therefore, are trying to exert their influence through countries that have an interest and still have territorial claims in the waters of the South China Sea.
Regarding the attitude of Southeast Asian countries to the struggle for influence of the two big countries, namely China and the United States, of course it will depend on the foreign policy of each country, especially those who have interests in the South China Sea. It is very possible, with regard to the interests of China and the United States, whether in terms of defense, security or economics, in the future there will still be escalation or an increase in tension in the South China Sea area.
For Indonesia in particular, the attitude and policy of anticipating this, of course, refers to the national interest and territorial sovereignty, as well as the free and active foreign policy that has been adhered to so far.