Clinton Engineers Expansion of Asian NATO to Contain China
The global proconsul and plenipotentiary of the world's sole military superpower began a two-week tour of her empire's provinces, old and new, in Asia and the Middle East in Paris on July 5 and 6 where she lambasted Russia and China for not attending the third Friends of Syria regime change conclave, threatening they would "pay a price" for their lack of subservience to Washington's agenda in Syria and by implication worldwide.
Having served notice to the U.S.'s two main challengers in Eurasia, and the world, in such an unequivocal manner, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton flew into Afghanistan on the 7th to declare the war-ravaged country the U.S.'s latest major non-NATO ally, joining Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand in that category, then left for Japan to attend a Conference on Afghanistan in Tokyo.
On July 9 she was in Mongolia, on the 10th in Vietnam, on the 11th in Laos and from the 11th-13th in Cambodia.
She left the last-named nation for Egypt where she arrived on July 14, and from where she will depart for Israel to meet with the nation's leaders on July 16 and 17.
The five Asian countries she visited are all near China, three - Afghanistan, Laos and Vietnam - bordering it. Her trip followed a nine-day Asian tour by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta last month which took him to Singapore, Vietnam and India in the opening salvo of Washington's strategic pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region.
Since her 13-day, seven-nation tour of the Asia-Pacific region two years ago, which took her to Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, the 17th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum in Vietnam and from there to China, Cambodia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and Australia, Clinton has softened the political ground for the Pentagon to follow up with basing and other agreements with nations in the area.
Her current trip pursues the same objective, particularly in Mongolia and Indochina, where Washington has now acquired four partners which during the Cold War era were allies of the Soviet Union. (Cambodia after the overthrow of the Khmer Rouge in 1979.)
The U.S. State Department and Defense Department work so thoroughly in tandem as to be indistinguishable most of the time, from U.S. Africa Command to the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership to the Global Peace Operations Initiative employed to train and integrate the militaries of scores of countries in Africa and Asia.
In visiting Laos on July 11, Clinton was the first secretary of state to do so since John Foster Dulles was the guest of King Sisavang Phoulivong in 1955.
Two years ago Clinton met with Laotian Foreign Minister Thongloun Sisoulith at the State Department to hold the two nations' highest-level talks since the Vietnam War. The visit was the first to the United States by a leading Laotian official since the ruling Lao People's Revolutionary Party came to power in 1975. The year before a similar initiative was launched by the White House and State Department with fellow ASEAN member Myanmar which culminated last November in Clinton visiting the country and switching it from the Chinese to the U.S. column.
During Clinton's hosting of the Laotian foreign minister in 2010, then-State Department Spokesman Philip Crowley stated: "The United States is committed to building our relationship with Laos as part of our broader efforts to expand engagement with Southeast Asia."
Nine days later at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, Clinton openly challenged China in asserting that "The United States...has a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea," adding "The United States is a Pacific nation, and we are committed to being an active partner with ASEAN."
That is, exploiting the ten-member organization (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) against China, particularly in respect to island disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea. In fact to add ASEAN members to mainstay American military allies in the Asia-Pacific - Australia, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Taiwan, with whom Washington has mutual defense treaties - in forming the nucleus of a rapidly evolving Asian NATO that will also encompass Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The Philippines of late has officially designated the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea, with the State Department likely to follow suit as it has with Russia's South Kuril Islands, which it has referred to as (Japan's) Northern Territories, and the Persian Gulf, frequently deemed the Arabian Gulf to taunt Iran. Cartographic aggression as it were.
The month after Clinton's attendance at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Vietnam two years ago, Vietnamese officials were hosted by the USS George Washington aircraft carrier off the nation's coast and the USS John S McCain guided missile destroyer arrived in Da Nang to lead a joint exercise in the South China Sea, the first between the U.S. and unified Vietnam.
While in Mongolia earlier this week, Clinton stated: "My trip reflects a strategic priority of American foreign policy today. After 10 years in which we focused a great deal of attention on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is making substantially increased investments -- diplomatic, economic, strategic and otherwise -- in this part of the world. It's what we call our pivot toward Asia."