"2013 is most significant for marking a return of Japan to the region. Although in the foreign policy context, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been most notable for his historical comments, military ambitions and dispute with China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, his reassertion of Japanese influence in ASEAN will perhaps have the longest-lasting consequences of all."
The government shutdown in the United States may have forced President Obama to cancel part of his visit to Southeast Asia next week, but the region will not be in want of courters as it prepares for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Indonesia and the East Asia Summit in Brunei.
In particular, the battle for influence in the ASEAN region among Northeast Asian's major powers—China, South Korea and Japan—is intensifying.
China has a clear head start in this competition, having steadily accumulated influence over the last decade since signing a strategic partnership with ASEAN in 2003. That same year, China became ASEAN's first dialogue partner to accede to the organization's landmark Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, a move many other external powers have since made.