Re: “Asean must balance between US and North Korea: academics”, The Nation, yesterday.
Asean was originally formed as a way of staying out of the Cold War between the US and the USSR, and it was not an unreasonable position to take at the time. When there were two “reasonable” actors in dispute (both far away), sometimes the best policy is simply to step aside and try to keep the dispute out of your area.
However, the current situation between the US and North Korea does not meet those same criteria, since North Korea is inside Asean’s area, and the North Koreans are not reasonable actors.
There wasn’t really any significant danger that the Cold War would break out in Southeast Asia. Who knows if Kim Jong-un might decide to start threatening his neighbours the next time there is a dispute.
To try to provide “balance” in this case is a policy equivalent to sticking one’s head in the sand.
I don’t recall Asean ever making a firm commitment on any foreign policy.
Asean is hardly unified when it comes to stances. Look at the South China Sea conflict. It’s mostly a policy of “we don’t butt into your business if you don’t butt into ours”. It’s all about economic trading, not geopolitics. Asean will sit firmly on the fence between the US and China, who are the real players in this conflict.
The Korea expert says: “The US might adopt containment as was used with Iran.”
Will Trump then impose trade sanctions against countries trading with North Korea, such as Thailand?
US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, as quoted by CNBC:
“The president will consider that at the appropriate time once he gives the UN time to act. I have an executive order prepared. It’s ready to go to the president. It will authorise me to stop doing trade, and put sanctions on anybody that does trade with North Korea.”
What has Prayut’s government done for the US that would be cause for Thailand’s exemption?
Re: “Thailand can be the Asean headquarters of Belt and Road plan”, Special to The Nation,
Honeyed words from an opinion piece written by two Chinese academics:
“A stabilising force” which “was neither conquered nor colonised”.
“Thai education has benefited from centuries of development unhindered by any colonial interference. Over the past few decades, the system has consistently pumped out the talents necessary for Thailand to demonstrate prowess in many arenas of human activity.” (Yet many Thais from better-off families head overseas to study.)
“Thai experts ... understand the history, culture, economic and other aspects of China.”
“Thailand can and should proactively participate in the Asia Financial Cooperation Association (AFCA) with the goal of stabilising regional finance as well as development.”
But consider for one moment the source, Thailand’s future as viewed from China. It sees Thailand becoming ever-closer to the regional (soon-to-be global) superpower, but this would surely mean abandoning Thailand’s traditional strategy of balancing such powers against one another. Would Thailand continue to remain free? I’m not so sure.
Reading between the lines, the real point is that Thailand is a non-democratic entity with a ruling class strongly connected to China. Officials are easily bought, and the education of the masses becomes more irrelevant by the day. A ripe plum in a great location.
Perhaps a more accurate headline would be “Thailand can be the capital of the new province of “New South East China”.