Explaining US Strategic Partnerships in the Asia-Pacific Region: Origins, Developments and Prospects
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 36, Number 2, August 2014
- pp. 262-289
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Since the mid-1990s, strategic partnerships have emerged as a new form of alignment between states, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. Yet only recently has the United States begun to pursue such relationships, especially under the Obama administration which has signed new partnerships with Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia and New Zealand. As a result, the current literature does not yet include significant study on how the United States views strategic partnerships. This article attempts to fill this gap by exploring the emergence of strategic partnerships as a new form of alignment in US strategy in the Asia Pacific under the Obama administration. Drawing on the existing literature on alignment, government documents, as well as conversations with policymakers from the United States and Southeast Asia, it argues that Washington is pursuing strategic partnerships as part of a deliberate effort to both enlist target countries to share the burden in addressing challenges and to institutionalize its relationships in the Asia Pacific. It constructs an original three-part analytical framework to understand how US policymakers conceive, craft and evaluate strategic partnerships in the Asia Pacific and applies it to analyse the similarities and differences in US partnerships with Indonesia and Vietnam.