May 6, 2022, 04.59 PM
Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (right) welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) at Bogor Palace near Jakarta on Friday, April 28, 2022. dok. Sekretariat PresidenIndonesia's President Joko Widodo (right) welcomes Japan's Prime Minister Fumio Kishida (left) at Bogor Palace near Jakarta on Friday, April 28, 2022.

While welcoming such aid, some ASEAN countries may want to keep a distance from Japan because of its close strategic alliance with the United States, said Huang, the National Taiwan Normal University professor.

He said countries in the region are eager to maintain and increase their economic cooperation with both the US and China, even as the rivalry between the two superpowers intensifies.

“If ASEAN countries fail to maintain a consistent position, resulting in the polarization of the political spectrum, the result of the imbalance will inevitably make ASEAN countries lose their flexibility towards both the US and China,” Huang said.

Koga said that while most ASEAN countries tend not to align with either the US or China, some of them have a clear preference between the two, and there is a desire to test the waters of the US commitment towards its regional allies.

“Countries such as the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia that have a high level of regional security and economic commitment from the US will have policies that lean toward the United States,” Koga said. “And conversely, countries such as Laos and Cambodia that have no commitment with the US will have lower expectations of the US.”

Still, other ASEAN countries may have closer ties to Japan, he said. These countries, such as Cambodia, are where Japan can function as an effective middleman, deepening its cooperation with that country to keep China in check and strengthen its strategic security deployment across the Indo-Pacific.

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