A firm but restrained US presence in Asia Pacific is in Australia’s interests. A rash power that threatens open conflict with our biggest trading partner is not Rex Tillerson’s cosy relationship with the Russian government was set to be the big controversy of his confirmation hearings to become the next US secretary of state. But it was the subject of Chinese construction in the South China Sea, and his statement that Chinese access to their facilities on the islands is “not going to be allowed”, that held the biggest implications for American foreign policy and security in Asia Pacific. The suggestion of a more aggressive, interventionist, American regional involvement highlights the pressing task of developing a more independent foreign policy for Australia. A foreign policy which works closely with the US when it is undergirding regional peace and stability, but is willing and equipped to break from it when it is not.
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