The U.S. has a new ambassador, one whose post reflects the changing nature of Washington’s relations with Beijing. David Lee Carden, a lawyer who was a fundraiser for U.S. President Barack Obama during his presidential election campaign, presented his credentials today to Surin Pitsuwan, secretary-general of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta. The U.S. is the second non-member nation after Japan to establish permanent resident diplomatic representation to ASEAN and it follows Obama’s visit to Indonesia last year.
Both Washington and Tokyo want to develop strategic and economic ties with ASEAN as a counterweight to Beijing’s growing influence in the region, and specifically its military power in the waters of the South China Sea. ASEAN members welcome the interest for the same reasons, as well as hoping, in the U.S.’s case, that it will bring a more uniform approach to trade. But on both the economic and strategic fronts, all parties need to move judiciously so as not to complicate their links with China, whose Prime Minister Wen Jiabao is also due to visit Jakarta this week.