Daily Memo: Hedging Bets in the Asia-Pacific

Australian and U.S. officials met this week as Canberra tries to nudge Washington back toward an embrace of multilateralism.

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Hedging bets in the Asia-Pacific. Australia’s defense and foreign ministers met with the U.S. secretaries of defense and state in Washington on Monday and Tuesday. According to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, the emphasis was on bolstering multilateral initiatives “such as the Five Eyes, ASEAN, the Quad, the Trilateral Infrastructure Partnership, the East Asia Summit,” with the overriding goal of developing a “network of nations that share our vision of an open, prosperous and secure Indo-Pacific.” Canberra has been trying to nudge the U.S. back toward an embrace of multilateralism since 2017, and the benefits to both sides are obvious. But the Australian side also made a point of signaling that it won’t automatically follow the U.S. lead on anything it thinks may spark a confrontation with China. Indeed, hedging will be the name of the game across the Asia-Pacific for some time to come. Also on Tuesday, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave his latest in a string of speeches condemning both the U.S. and China for destabilizing the region. Singapore is quietly one of the more important countries in the region, given its invaluable location at the nexus of the South China Sea and Strait of Malacca, […]

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