Common Ground for the United States, Japan, and China in Southeast Asia – Full Report by CAP

Cambodian fishermen work on their wooden boats in the early morning on Mekong river near Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Sunday, June 20, 2010. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)


The Center for American Progress (CAP) has released a report outlining the findings of a recent trilateral dialogue that describes the current state of engagement of each major power in Southeast Asia and presents four areas for potential U.S.-Japan-China collaboration.

The Center for American Progress expresses its gratitude to the Sasakawa Peace Foundation for making this project possible. The author wishes to thank Blaine Johnson and Stefanie Merchant for their efforts to organize the Tokyo workshop and their contributions to this report.

The clearly competitive elements of Chinese, Japanese, and U.S. engagement in Southeast Asia mean that a major shift in thinking will be necessary for policy coordination or cooperation to occur in the region. Indeed, in the current atmosphere, candid and productive trilateral dialogue is unlikely, meaning consultations would likely have to begin at the Track 2 or Track 1.5 level of diplomacy to refine the concepts outlined above. However, with the needs in the region so large and ASEAN’s success so clearly in each country’s national interest, greater dialogue is necessary. With many Southeast Asian countries concerned about animosity between the outside powers and afraid of being caught in the middle of heightened competition, it would also benefit all three parties’ relations in Southeast Asia to broach the idea of cooperation or at least policy coordination on nonstrategic matters where interests align. While the onus ultimately lies on the countries of Southeast Asia to guide the outside powers to the areas of potential convergence, it is clear that more dialogue – both trilateral and with Southeast Asian countries—has the potential to produce unexpectedly useful outcomes.

To read or download full report, click here.