This study examines the U.S. contribution to the creation of ASEAN, by analysing the origins – since the foundation of the South-East Asia Friendship and Economic Co-operation (SEAFET) in February 1959 – and the ultimate evolution of Southeast Asian regionalism in 1967.
Throughout the 1960s the United States was interested in the promotion of an ʻindependent nations zoneʼ in the region as a means of accelerating the economic co-operation and social progress. Both the U.S. State Department believed regionalism embodied a necessary element of ʻcontainmentʼ, that should have pursued two main objectives: first, to preserve and strengthen the will of the peoples of the area to resist Communist threat; second, to assist these governments in copying with the major problems of development. Moreover, the partial failure of SEATO to ensure security in the area was conceived as a means to enhance regional co-operation. Grounded mainly in the analysis of declassified records from the National Archives and Records Administration at College Park (Maryland), this proposal provides a historical account of U.S.-Southeast Asian states relations and, at the same time, traces a states-to-states interaction between ASEAN's founding members. Whenever necessary, records from the National Archives at Kew (London), and the National Archives of Australia were consulted to supplement the American documents. This study concludes that United States has long worked actively to encourage regional cohesion among the Southeast Asian nations. These states, albeit territorial disputes, were committed to set up a truly co-operative association that provided Asian solutions to Asian problems.