WASHINGTON/MANILA — US President Barack Obama sought to reassure allies in Asia last month that the United States would support them in the face of a more assertive China.
But after one of Beijing’s boldest moves in years to lay claim to contested waters off Vietnam, some Asian countries are asking a simple question: Where is Washington?
Days after Obama left the region, China deployed an oil drilling rig 150 miles off the coast of Vietnam, into a part of the South China Sea claimed by itself and Hanoi.
That sparked deadly anti-China riots in central Vietnam and raised questions over whether Obama’s long-promised strategic “pivot” of military assets to Asia is more than talk.
“We have been pushing the US to change its policy and take sides in the regional dispute,” said a senior Philippine defense official. “I wanted to see the US match with stronger action what President Obama has said during his recent visit in the Philippines.”