The United States says it has clear ideas for the strategically important "Indo-Pacific" region. But so do a lot of other countries.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to lay out details of Washington's free and open Indo-Pacific vision during his Asia tour this week. He will be representing President Donald Trump at the U.S.-ASEAN Summit and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, visiting Australia, Japan, Papua New Guinea and Singapore.
"We seek an Indo-Pacific — from the United States to India, from Japan to Australia, and everywhere in between — where sovereignty is respected, where commerce flows unhindered and where independent nations are masters of their own destinies," Pence wrote in a Washington Post commentary ahead of his visit.
He reiterated: "Authoritarianism and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific region" — a possible reference to China which has been flexing its military and economic might in the region. The South China Sea, for example, is one of the world's busiest commercial waterways — spanning 1.4 million square miles — and China claims most of it as sovereign territory.
But even before the U.S. began calling for a free and open Indo-Pacific, both Japan and Indonesia already had their own policy ideas for the region.
Jakarta was the first to push for an Indo-Pacific policy, followed by Tokyo and then Washington. All of them refer to the same geography — the triangular area between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, bordered by Japan, India and Australia.
But Indonesia, which lies within that triangle, has a vision that doesn't match the proposals of Japan and the United States, which are both associated with containing China.