SINGAPORE – This week, ten foreign ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) are meeting in Hanoi. When their initial gathering ends, they will host their counterparts from across the region, including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. ASEAN meetings are sometimes criticized as “talking shops,” but this time dialogue and strategic leadership are needed immensely.
Ironically, the two leaders who most emphasized the need for leadership in Asia and across the Pacific recently left office. Japan’s former Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, and Australia’s former premier, Kevin Rudd, both championed regionalism from early in their short time in office. But, though they are gone, the issue of regional leadership remains. Indeed, it is growing more important by the day.