Monday, January 9, 2017

U.S. Asian Policy in Turmoil, Key Old Allies Uncertain on America’s Commitment

The first eight weeks of the transition to the Donald Trump administration has caused major upheaval in Barack Obama’s Asian foreign policy initiatives and turmoil with even longer-standing diplomatic and treaty understanding.
  • In general, Trump has been highly critical of China’s trade and currency policy.
  • Trump will abandon the long-negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).
  • Trump has said he would talk to North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, took a call from Tsai Ing-wen, the President of Taiwan, and is quoted as telling Philippine’s President Rodrigo Duterte his anti-drug dealers campaign is the right way.
  • He generally casts doubt on American treaty commitments and understanding related to national defense and nuclear deterrence. He has wondered aloud about the U.S. commitment to Japan and South Korea’s defense and speculated they possibly should obtain nuclear weapons.
Earlier this year, residents of the region were asked if their country “was in a military conflict with another country, do you think the U.S. military would defend or not defend” them.

South Korea, among the most threatened nations in the Asian Rim, is also among the most confident the U.S. will defend them (70%). Philippine President Duterte has decided direct China negotiations about territorial disputes without U.S. involvement is a better strategy, but his constituents believe the U.S. would support them militarily (78%). Two of our allies most dependent on the U.S. deterent and military commitment – Japan (53%) and Taiwan (44%) – have populations clearly divided in their sense that the U.S. would defend them.

It will likely be considerable time before the turmoil subsides and a new equilibrium of relationships with the U.S. and China is established. Public opinion will only then come to reflect the new reality.

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