ASIAN INSIDER - By Invitation

What does it mean to be America's partner?

The US defence chief's Fullerton speech next Tuesday is titled The Imperative Of Partnership. It raises questions about the expectations on both sides at a time of coronavirus-induced upheavals and rising US-China tensions.

James Crabtree For The Straits Times
James Crabtree For The Straits Times

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin lands in Singapore next week, marking the first visit to South-east Asia by a member of President Joe Biden's Cabinet. Mr Austin's regional swing, which also takes him to the Philippines and Vietnam, provides an opportunity to explain America's defence and security policy in a region still struggling both to recover from Covid-19 and to adapt to a new era of competition between the United States and China.

His arrival comes against a backdrop of mutterings about Mr Biden's lack of focus on South-east Asia during his early months in power. There is disquiet in the air too about the growing hostility between Washington and Beijing and the future impact this may have on the region. So what might he say to reassure the doubters, while also laying out a comprehensive vision for America's future in Asia?

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2021, with the headline 'ByInvitation What does it mean to be America's partner?'. Subscribe