Geopolitical dimensions of the TNI-U.S. Commander Meeting, President’s Visit to China

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Achmad Nur Hidayat MPP
Achmad Nur Hidayat MPP, Public Policy Expert and Chair of the Center for Political Economy Studies at UPN Veteran Jakarta.

The meaning of the US Joint Chiefs Commander visit – first in the last 14 years 

The US and its Western allies have undeniably accomplished a great deal with the visit. As the most extensive and densely-populated country in ASEAN, Indonesia holds great significance for the US, over influence of the South China Sea. 

The US is at least a step closer to feeling assured that Indonesia will not be in China’s stronghold amid the US-China rivalry to attain hegemony over the South China Sea. China and the ASEAN countries have been claiming the islands and various zones of the South China Sea for decades. 

China is reportedly funding and building a new naval base in Ream, Cambodia. According to Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Wang Wentian, the base will strengthen partnerships between the two countries, including helping to modernize the Cambodian Navy. 

Ream Naval Base in Cambodia directly overlooks the Gulf of Thailand, a passage from the South China Sea (SCS) disputed by Beijing and several ASEAN countries. China claims up to 90 percent of the South China Sea as its territory within its “Nine-Dash Line.” 

China’s claim has been keeping claimant countries in tension: Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei are known to have close relations with the US, with the Philippines holding the most extensive US base in ASEAN. 

Chinese troops in Ream, Cambodia pose a significant risk to world maritime trade, since the South China Sea accounts for nearly 70 percent of maritime trade worldwide. 

Therefore, the SCS has inevitably become a bone of contention between China and the US, in their struggle to be the world’s dominant country in the economy, defense and security.