As the President of the United States faces tremendous backlash back in his country over allegations of Russian interference in previous elections, Donald Trump embarks on a five-nation tour to Asia. He would be visiting Japan, South Korea, China, Philippines, and Vietnam. These nations are either allies or a strategically important country that strengthens the US’s “Pivot to Asia” foreign policy.
Ever since Donald Trump rose to the most powerful political position in the world, his provocative rhetoric and belligerent attitude has diminished the soft power of the United States. Several instances such as public back-lashing of NATO members over deficit payments, display of disregard for the United Nations, defaming leaders of staunch allies such as Germany, suggesting self-protection of Japan through nuclear program, and insistence of payment for THAAD missiles to South Korea, has demonstrated his in-sensitiveness to long-drawn strategic partnerships. His aggrandizement towards China which he once called a “currency manipulator” has been wavering and unsettled. Trump’s unpredictable and foreign policies and “madman” approach to international politics has been unsettling and unnerving to multiple leaders who are not used to such leadership from the world’s most powerful nation.
The North Korean missile threat has seen escalations, bellicose threats, and intermittent nuclear tests. With China unwilling to allow the collapse of North Korean regime, Dictator Kim-Jong Un is constantly upping the ante against the US. Asia embroiled in such crisis, this five-nation tour was foreseeable and aptly timed. It is seen as an international test to his diplomacy given the crisis-like situation and fading US political and diplomatic clout across the world. His last visit to the Middle-East proved to be disruptive and flagrant as it was followed by a unilateral embargo imposed by Arab nations on Qatar, suggesting that the latter indulged in supporting “jihadists” and terrorists. This move couldn’t have been possible without the support of Mr. Trump.
He begins his leg of tour with Japan where he apparently talked too tough on the resolve of the US to solve any threat to their mainland and important allies. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe might have developed close friendship with Trump. However, it is notable that Abe has just won the re-election and is keen on taking Japan towards a more pacifist and nationalistic edge. Observers claim that he is enthusiastic about re-igniting Japanese military which may not be appreciated by the US.
Trump’s statements about the liberal President of South Korea have been irresponsible and injudicious to an extent. Moon Jae-in has been accused of pursuing dovish and non-aggressive policies towards their dangerous neighbors North Korea. In fact, Moon is insisting on deliberative diplomacy and negotiations, something that the international community and experienced diplomats suggest. North Korea is a nuclear reality the world has to live with. Whether Trump is able to solve the problem without an exterminating war is yet to be seen.
Next stop is China which Trump in his Presidential campaigns has described as a currency manipulator. He speaks ill of Chinese political system and their huge trade deficit with the US. Nevertheless, he displayed an unusual bonhomie with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter’s visit to the US. Chinese involvement in the North Korean issue has been disappointing and Trump’s claims of making successful deals and negotiations have remained elusive. President Xi having consolidated his powers after the 19th Congress of Communist Party of China, his policies towards US remains to be seen.
The President of Philippines has been lambasted by the international community for his brazen violation of human rights and reprehensible stance towards law and order. However, President Rodrigo Dueterte hasn’t been on the hit list of Trump’s words yet. Philippines has been an important ally of the US which is gradually shifting in the arms of China after the International Court of Justice’s verdict on disputed islands of South China Sea. Chinese influence and arms-twisting in the Asian region has heightened and their unrelenting stance on South China Sea is worrisome for the US. Trump has unilaterally withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership which he claimed to be disastrous to American economy and workers.
These factors have left leaders and political pundits puzzled. His “American first” policy, anti-globalization, anti-climate change, and protectionist policies will most likely dictate his international diplomacy. Whether he makes a drastic shift with his predecessor Obama’s foreign policies or remains on the status quo will be scrutinized closely in the near future.
Article by Mausam.