Donald Trump’s “isolationist” foreign policy pronouncements are feeding insecurity in some Asian nations fearful of China’s growing power, and risk emboldening nationalists and authoritarians in the region.
The real estate developer, who is very close to securing the Republican nomination for November’s presidential election, has with undiplomatic abandon challenged much of the status quo in US-Asia relations. Overall, his comments have sounded like a death knell for the “pivot to Asia” strategy adopted by President Barack Obama five years ago.
He has said US allies like Japan and South Korea should pay more towards their defence, warned he could withdraw US troops from bases in Japan, and mulled whether Japan and South Korea should have their own nuclear arms. This week in an interview he said he is willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which would represent a major shift in US policy.
He has also threatened to rein in China’s big trade surplus with the US, saying he will threaten to impose heavy duties on Chinese goods. And Trump says he will rip up and then renegotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact agreed to by the US, Japan, and 10 other countries in February.
Furthermore, Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims entering the United States risks undermining moderate leaders in Muslim countries.
“If he becomes president and adopts his own version of foreign policy, the US will cease to be a Pacific power. That’s the end result,” said Kunihiko Miyake, a former Japanese diplomat, who served in both Beijing and Baghdad.
And his comments about the possibility of a local nuclear deterrent fanned fears among Asian diplomats that the world could become an even more dangerous place.
Japan’s nationalist-led government has already boosted defence spending and has reinterpreted its pacifist constitution to allow its military to come to the aid of allies under attack, a major shift in Japan’s post-war security stance.
A senior Japanese government official said Washington could lose influence in Asia if there was any perception it was softening its stance on issues like the South China Sea.
There are also fears that the TPP could unravel, or become worth a lot less to Asian partners, should Trump renegotiate the pact. The deal has yet to be ratified.
The lack of priority Trump appears to give to issues that don’t serve his “America first” agenda could mean he’ll soft-pedal on human rights and democratic values, some critics said. That would come at a time when generals are running Thailand, a ‘strong man’ has just been elected the new president of the Philippines, and Malaysia’s prime minister has silenced independent media.
Source: Dhaka Tribune