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Politics

Southeast Asia views Trump administration with unease

Despite signs of continuity in US policy, the risk of surprise remains

| China
U.S. President Donald Trump talks with Indonesia's President Joko Widodo during a working session at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, on July 8.

Since the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Vietnam in 1973, the tendency among American foreign policy decision makers has been to pay relatively little attention to Southeast Asia compared to other regions, with the exception of counter-terrorism since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America in 2001. This is not to say that the U.S. has ignored the region, but rather that American policies and perspectives have highlighted ambivalence toward an area whose importance to core U.S. national interests remains a subject of debate in Washington.

Consequently, former U.S. President Barack Obama's efforts to predicate his "pivot to Asia" strategy on deepening engagement with Southeast Asia was widely welcomed in the region. Now, however, the state of U.S. relations has been thrown into uncertainty with indications that President Donald Trump seems determined to reverse many aspects of his predecessor's foreign policy.

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