When U.S. President Donald Trump came to power two years ago, his government unveiled several actions under the "America First" doctrine that reduced American engagement with the international community. From withdrawing from a massive Pacific trade deal to threatening import tariffs on long-standing allies, the Trump presidency has sparked worries about the state of America's leadership on the global stage.
Over the past year, however, Washington has taken pains to show the Asia-Pacific region that it remains a steadfast partner. High-ranking U.S. officials have prioritized the area for official visits while the U.S. has announced significant funding and military support for Asian governments under its Indo-Pacific blueprint.
But a number of emerging Asian economies still remain skeptical of American commitment. Washington may have pledged millions and deployed ships to the area, but many in Southeast Asian countries doubt the stability of such promises, strategists told CNBC.
Trump's administration has become unpredictable with policy flip-flops and the departures of respected policymakers such as former Defense Secretary James Mattis, so it's difficult to gauge any U.S. action with certainty, said Collin Koh Swee Lean, a research fellow specializing in Southeast Asian defense at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.