US quick response to Philippines typhoon undoes damage of Obama’s East Asia Summit no-show

Or at least, that’s the take from one Asia-watcher, Rory Medcalf, who, writing in the WSJ, calls the international response to the disaster a “potential inflection point in the contest for influence” in the region.

“The rapid and large-scale response already underway by US military forces is sending a signal that will be noticed across the region. It will give new meaning to the rebalance to Asia, at a time when some were starting to question Washington’s commitment. This will more than compensate for President Barack Obama’s absence from the East Asia Summit in Brunei last month.”

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Medcalf observes that even the Communist Party-leaning Global Times has warned the Chinese government to be more generous and active in relief for the disaster. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chinese reverse course.

The Japanese are using it as an opportunity to generate goodwill. The Australians have been uncharacteristically generous. The British have sent a ship. Even Israel has sent 148 search and rescue people. In a region where perceptions matter so much, many countries are going out of their way to make gestures, to be seen, to be perceived as active and welcome.

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