Malaysia’s balancing act

New York Times | .

President Obama came to Malaysia recently for the latest U.S.-Asean and East Asia Summits, reaffirming America’s strategic commitment to Asia. But most of the 10 Asean countries responded as they often have in recent years: They hedged.

They stopped short of fully aligning with Washington. And even some of the governments increasingly worried about China’s creeping assertiveness in the South China Sea, like Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, have preferred to selectively accommodate Beijing rather than confronting it head-on.

This balancing act has meant keeping some distance from Washington, and at times defying its will. Even so, the United States government should welcome this behavior: Hedging by small and mid-level states in Southeast Asia is good for stability in the region, and that’s good for America.

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