FAR EAST CORRESPONDENT — With trade dominating Southeast Asian nations’ agendas, it’s left to the US to save the organisation’s moral bacon, says Luke Hunt in The Diplomat. In the lead-up to this year’s ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) expectations were high.
The annual talkfest had promised it would deliver on mounting concerns about potential conflict zones, specifically the Spratly and Paracel islands. North Korea, climate change, food security and trade were also on the agenda. In the end, however, it was a case of follow the money in a series of talks ASEAN hosted with its dialogue partners including the East Asia Summit Foreign Ministers meeting. Only the United States stood out for its ability to speak plainly on awkward subjects.