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“US is faithful to Asia”: US VP assures on her whirlwind Asian tour

The US fallout from Afghanistan has raised questions among millions in Asia about the global leader's credibility. As US administration has given assurance to Asian countries about their continued and unwavering support, experts claim that US needs to do more than just give promises.

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Millions in Asia have been questioning US credibility and asking whether the “global leader” can be trusted as scenes of desperate evacuees leaving Afghanistan gripped the news channels and social media.

On Sunday evening, a week after the fall of Kabul, US vice-president Kamala Harris embarks on a trip to Asia and landed in Singapore. She sold a vision of US faithfulness to Asia in a speech in Singapore and said:

There should be no doubt we have enduring interests in this region and enduring commitments as well… those commitments also include security”. Also, she assured that the US would “invest our time and our energy” to strengthen relationships.

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But is our vision sufficient to convince those concerned in Asia? And can America fend off China’s attempts to seize on what some say is a golden opportunity for the latter to fan anti-US propaganda?

Read more: US and China: What has changed with Biden Presidency?

Anxious murmurings on how America repositions itself

On Monday, Singapore’s prime minister Lee Hsien Loong warned that many in the region were watching how the US repositions itself in Asia following the exit from Afghanistan.

However, two of the US biggest regional allies in particular, South Korea and Japan has demonstrated public confidence in America and their stance has largely been unaffected. But anxious murmurings from some quarters cannot be taken for granted.

Read more: Countering China: US, Japan and India push for open Asia

US cannot be trusted, fear conservatives in Asia

Some conservative governments in Asia argued that since American can no longer be trusted given how they deserted the Afghan forces. Hence, they have called for their militaries to be beefed up, arguing that they cannot fully trust in America’s promise to back them up in a conflict.

The US presently has tens of thousands of troops stationed in both countries, but former president Donald Trump’s America First foreign policy had strained relationships.

In an interview with ABC News last week, US President Joe Biden insisted there was a “fundamental difference” between Afghanistan and US allies like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, saying it was “not even comparable”.

No comparison between US Asian allies and Afghanistan

In an interview with ABC News last week, US President Joe Biden insisted there was a “fundamental difference” between Afghanistan and US allies like South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, saying it was “not even comparable”.

Some observers, like Ms Glaser, believe that the Afghan withdrawal is not “the death knell of US leadership”, and that US allies will be reassured that Washington would now pay greater attention to the region and its competition with China.

 

James Crabtree, executive director of think tank II-SS Asia, noted that US VP Harris’ visit was one of several made to Asia in recent months by top US officials.

“The Americans have answered the first set of criticisms which is ‘You’ve forgotten us’ – now they are turning up,” he said.

“Now the next question is, with all these talks of partnerships, what does this amount to in fact?”

US needs to deliver more than just promises

The US fall-out from Afghanistan has led some believe it will need to deliver more than just promises. Dr Chong said this may mean getting bipartisan support for US commitments, ratifying the UN’s maritime law convention, and rejoining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement which the US withdrew under Donald Trump.

Said Mr Crabtree: “People are going to watch more closely what the US is going to do in Asia from now on, because Afghanistan has primed them to look for signs that they are not reliable.

The US may be more wary of people questioning their commitment and would want to demonstrate it is not the case.”

Read more: West faces mounting criticism over Afghan crisis