In a trip hailed as the US’s attempt to get Southeast Asian countries on their side, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has left out Singapore in his very first tour through the region.
The US Secretary of State, which handles foreign affairs in the US, made stops in Thailand, the Philippines and even Malaysia, but left out stops at Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and Singapore.
This comes after the governments of Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines have become increasingly entangled with Chinese diplomacy efforts – sometimes labelled a “carrot-and-stick” approach by foreign policy observers.
Secretary Tillerson’s meeting with the Philippines, traditionally a staunch US ally but with growing ties with Beijing, centered on North Korea and its nuclear threats. He also spoke with Thailand and Malaysia on this same topic, urging these counties to maintain their pressure on the reclusive hermit state.
US relations between Malaysia and Thailand have been less cordial than with the Philippines. The US’s ties with Thailand soured after Thailand’s military coup seized power from a popularly elected government 3 years ago. Malaysia’s deepening ties with Beijing, particularly after the 1MDB corruption scandal, has also been a sore sticking point with the US.