Regional shifts are marginalizing ASEAN

U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions in Singapore, ahead of his summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un
Singapore hosted the Trump-Kim summit in June. It is also the chair of ASEAN, but the Southeast Asian organization had no impact on the talks (source: dpa)
  • ASEAN has little influence on the geopolitical shifts occurring in Asia
  • The group is already split over Chinese activity in the region
  • The changes threaten to make ASEAN irrelevant
  • The big global powers stand to gain from maintaining ASEAN’s influence

When Singapore pulled off a diplomatic coup by hosting the summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, there was one conspicuous absence. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was nowhere in the mix, even though Singapore is the current chair of the organization. Ongoing geopolitical realignments around the Korean Peninsula and across the Pacific and Indian oceans via the so-called “free and open Indo-Pacific” (FOIP) now threaten to overwhelm ASEAN, which is split over China’s growing assertiveness in the region.

However, if ASEAN becomes more ineffectual, unable to build geopolitical bridges and broker regional peace and stability, it will not just be its 10 members that suffer a loss of influence. The major powers on the East Asian landmass and across the Indo-Pacific would bear the brunt of rising tensions without a third-party platform to mitigate their differences.

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