In 1976, in a move that symbolized America’s waning influence in Southeast Asia, the US government was asked to close its bases in Thailand. The US agreed to the Thai government’s request. Coming close on the heels of the official end of the Vietnam War in 1975, it appeared that America was interested in turning its back on a particularly divisive and dispiriting period in its history. The US did retain its bases in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines and continued to provide a nuclear ‘shield’ in the face of the communist threat. However, troop withdrawals, which followed the announcement in 1969 of the Nixon Doctrine and the new US policy of promoting greater regional self-help in defence, continued through the 1970s (Weintraub 1978; Woo 1991: 123–25). From 1976 onwards, military aid to East and Southeast Asia was reduced. US economic aid to Asia dropped from an annual average of US$1.25 billion in the early 1970s to average US$500 million per year during late 1970s and early 1980s (Inada 1989). That US firms continued to invest in the region and that the US market remained open were crucial to the rapid development of the initial set of ‘miracle’ economies – Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. But, despite President Reagan arresting the decline in America’s military interest in the region during the early 1980s, the US was not the dominant military or economic force in East and Southeast Asia that it had been up to the early 1970s.
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