Nervous about China, Southeast Asia gets Trump’s attention with Pence in Indonesia – Chicago Tribune

Southeast Asia, a focus of past U.S. presidents, has been overlooked thus far for the Trump administration, but Vice President Mike Pence‘s visit to Indonesia Thursday marked a sign of change and he announced the president would follow him to the region later this year.

Anxious Southeast Asian governments are looking for America’s commitment to counter China’s rising economic and military clout. Vietnam’s foreign minister is in Washington his week, and the top diplomats of the region’s 10-nation bloc are expected to arrive en masse in early May, amid concerns their interests were being crowded out as President Donald Trump prioritizes Mideast counterterrorism, traditional alliances in Europe and North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

Pence’s stop in Jakarta on a 10-day swing through the Asia-Pacific, meeting with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, sends a message that Trump’s interests in Asia extend beyond North Korea and the massive U.S. trade imbalance with China. It is the first to Southeast Asia by a top administration official, and Pence announced Trump will attend the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in November.

Washington is “taking steps to strengthen our partnership with ASEAN and deepen our friendship,” Pence said, resolving to strengthen economic ties and security cooperation in combating terrorism and in the disputed South China Sea.

Nervous about China, Southeast Asia gets Trump’s attention with Pence in Indonesia – Chicago Tribune}