The third quarter of 2002 was one in which the U.S.-led war on terrorism continued to claim the attention of regional policymakers and media. But it was also a period in which more traditional economic and political concerns began to reassume their previous prominence. In a number of countries, the war on terrorism adhered to patterns established earlier in the year. In a precautionary move reflecting information from a captured al-Qaeda source, U.S. embassies in Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia were closed on the anniversary of Sept. 11. That action underlined the emergence of the region as a major arena in the new global battleground.
The quarter was marked by continued U.S. efforts to consolidate and clarify its counterterrorism strategy in the region. In the Philippines, U.S. military training and assistance seemed to produce more energetic and effective operations by the Philippine Army against Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Politically and operationally, U.S. counterterrorism cooperation with Malaysia strengthened notably while collaboration with Singapore stayed close. Indonesia remained the primary focus of U.S. concern and even here significant movement toward close working relations became evident. Terrorism-related issues continued to overshadow more traditional U.S. concerns in the region regarding economic issues, human rights, and an incipient strategic rivalry with China. U.S.-China relations were relatively quiescent – facilitating a single-minded focus on terrorism in U.S. relations with Southeast Asia.