The inconsistent foreign policy of the United States towards Asian countries has gifted an opportunity to China to enhance its influence over regional countries including military-ruled Burma, Senator Jim Webb said on Thursday during a hearing of which he chaired.Webb, in his remarks at the Senate’s Foreign Relations Subcommittee Hearing on Washington’s engagement in Asia, said, “American sanctions and other policy restrictions have not only increased Chinese political and economic influence in Southeast Asia, they ironically serve as a double reward for China because all the while American interaction in East Asia has been declining.”
Webb said in recent years China has become the only country in the world to which the United States is vulnerable, strategically and economically.
“And nowhere is this more obvious than in Burma, where Chinese influence has grown steadily at a time when the United States has cut off virtually all economic and diplomatic relations. Since then, Chinese arms sales and other military aid has exceeded $3 billion,” added the Virginian Senator.
Webb, who in August 2009 travelled to Burma and met with high-ranking junta officials, including Senior General Than Shwe, as well as detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, is a strong advocate of engagement with the Burmese junta, in power since 1988.
Webb said in the absence of United States engagement with the junta, China has taken over and greatly influenced the Burmese regime to the extent of creating “an intrinsic suspicion of U.S. motives in the region.”
“And as only one example of China’s enormous investment reach,” he added, in reference to a future pipeline to run through Burma, “within the next decade or sooner, Beijing is on track to exclusively transfer to its waiting refineries both incoming oil and locally tapped natural gas via a 2,380-kilometer pipeline, a $30 billion deal.”
The Senator said Washington should maintain consistency in its foreign policy towards Asia, as “inconsistencies inherent in our policies toward different governments tend to create confusion, cynicism, and allegations of situational ethics.”
The hearing on Thursday also took the testimony of Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell, Dr. Robert Sutter of Georgetown University and Dr. Robert Herman of Freedom House.