Analysts called the US strategy of re-engagement in the Asia-Pacific region "partly unsuccessful" and "destructive in the long run," as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton embarked on an 11-day, six-nation tour in the region for the final push of the strategy during her tenure.
Clinton visited the Cook Islands over the weekend, becoming the first Secretary of State to participate in the Pacific Islands Forum.
After visiting the island nation, Clinton will visit Indonesia, the seat of the secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and then head to China for a two-day visit starting on Tuesday.
Tao Wenzhao, a senior researcher with the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times that Clinton's participation in the Pacific Islands Forum underlines the Obama administration's attention to the South Pacific, an area which used to be neglected by Washington.
The analyst also noted China's increasing ties with the small island nations, which prompted the US to compete for influence.
Clinton Friday announced more than $32 billion in new US programs for the region.
According to Reuters, Clinton told the gathering Friday that the US was in the region for the long haul. But she also played down growing perceptions of a US-China rivalry in the region, declaring "the Pacific is big enough for all of us" and dismissing the notion that expanded US activity was "a hedge against particular countries."
Analysts also noted that Clinton's visit to Indonesia and Brunei will be centered on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, over which a summit of ASEAN leaders in July failed to reach consensus. AP quoted unnamed US officials as saying that Clinton will press them to find common ground and hash out a framework for negotiating with China.
Over the past two years, the Obama administration has made a major push to increase engagement across the Asia-Pacific region, vowing a shift of strategic pivot.
Jin Canrong, vice director of the School of International Studies at the Renmin University of China, said that Clinton regards the re-engagement as her political legacy, which aims to dominate the region's political agenda, and build a Trans-Pacific Partnership that excludes China as well as further consolidate its military edge.
"However, it wasn't easy for Washington to push forward the strategy," said Jin.
"The downward economic strength of the US led to its playing a limited role in the region's economy. In politics, it exerted some influence, but did not play a dominant role. As a result, it could only showcase its ambition by staging military drills with allies."
Ni Feng, deputy director of the Institute of American Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, shared a similar view, adding that Washington's capacity to engage in Asia has declined compared with the 1960s and 1970s.
Ni said the US shift of pivot has intensified disputes between Asian countries, stirring up tensions between China and its neighbors.
According to Tao, frequent drills between the US and its allies have destabilized the region, and the role played by Washington in disputes between China and Japan as well as territorial disputes in the South China Sea have hindered the peaceful settlement of such issues.
"In the near term, Washington's Asia strategy seems to be working effectively. But over the long run, its destructive effects for Asia will gradually emerge," said Ni, adding that escalating tensions in Asia would not work to the benefits of the US, and would be contrary to Washington's attempts to reap profits from Asia's economic growth.
Clinton will finish the trip with stops in Brunei and East Timor before heading to the Russian port city of Vladivostok, where she will represent US President Barack Obama at this year's Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit of regional leaders.
Du Liya and agencies contributed to this story