Trump faces tough Asia-Pa­cific chal­lenge

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Af­ter Don­ald Trump is sworn in as the pres­i­dent of the United States on Jan 20, the big­gest for­eign pol­icy chal­lenge for his new ad­min­is­tra­tion will be how to deal with the fast-de­vel­op­ing sit­u­a­tion in the Asi­aPa­cific re­gion.

The top pri­or­ity of Trump, as such, will be to form a re­li­able team that can help re­tain the trust of theUS’ Asia-Pa­cific al­lies in the newad­min­is­tra­tion. One of the ugli­est elec­tion cam­paigns inUS his­tory has left Amer­i­can democ­racy badly bruised. There­fore, Trump has to move quickly to an­nounce his for­eign se­cu­rity pol­icy team to of­fer some as­sur­ance to the Amer­i­can peo­ple as well as the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity about the work­a­bil­ity of its do­mes­tic and global poli­cies.

Be­sides, since Trump, dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign, threat­ened to re­duce, if not end theUS’ de­fense com­mit­ments to­ward its Asia-Pa­cific al­lies such as Ja­pan and the Repub­lic of Korea, he ei­ther has to pay early vis­its to those coun­tries or ex­plain that there will be no change in his ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Asia-Pa­cific pol­icy to re­as­sure them of con­tin­uedUS sup­port.

Trump did try to do that in his vic­tory speech by say­ing: “We will get along with all other na­tions… will­ing to get along with us ... We will have great re­la­tion­ships.” But that will not be enough.

Trump’s se­cond, and per­haps more im­por­tant, chal­lenge will be how to treat the China-US re­la­tion­ship. The strate­gic com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Bei­jing andWash­ing­ton is mostly in re­la­tion to a third party— for ex­am­ple, China’s dis­pute with Ja­pan in the East China Sea and its dis­putes with some other neigh­bors in the South China Sea. Which means fu­ture China-US re­la­tions will largely de­pend onWash­ing­ton’s pol­icy to­ward Bei­jing and Sino-US in­ter­ac­tions.

Whether or not theUS con­tin­ues to take mea­sures to slow, if not con­tain, China’s rise will de­ter­mine re­gional peace and pros­per­ity. If the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion were to in­clude Tai­wan in­toWash­ing­ton’s “re­bal­anc­ing to the Asia-Pa­cific” strat­egy, it could lead to a much­dreaded stand­off be­tween China and theUS. But no one ex­pects it to do so.

Trade and eco­nomic fric­tions are ex­pected to in­crease, though, be­cause be­ing a busi­ness­man, Trump has his own ideas about trade and dur­ing his elec­tion cam­paign, he vowed to act tough on China.

And al­though the US Congress is not likely to ap­prove the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment, the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion may put it back on the pol­icy agenda af­ter re­vis­ing it, be­cause it is aimed at fur­ther­ing Amer­i­can in­ter­ests.

Be­sides, the dead­lock of TPP will be a chance for China to pro­mote the ne­go­ti­a­tions on the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pa­cific, and en­hance its co­op­er­a­tion with ASEAN in the talks of Re­gional Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic Part­ner­ship, the com­pe­ti­tion be­tweenWash­ing­ton and Bei­jing to write the trade rules will con­tinue.

The most press­ing se­cu­rity chal­lenge for the re­gion is the Demo­cratic Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of Korea nu­clear is­sue. The “strate­gic en­durance” pol­icy used by the Barack Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion to deal with the is­sue has not suc­ceeded, as many in the US strate­gic cir­cle say. The DPRK is push­ing the en­ve­lope by test­ing mis­siles and con­duct­ing nu­clear tests. To pre­vent Py­ongyang from mas­ter­ing ad­vanced mis­sile tech­nol­ogy and thus be­com­ing ca­pa­ble of strik­ing the US home­land, many ex­perts sug­gestWash­ing­ton launch pre­emp­tive strikes on the DPRK, which would lead to a greater cri­sis.

Given that diplo­macy in the Mid­dle East, Latin Amer­ica and Africa is not likely to yield sig­nif­i­cant re­sults for the US, the DPRK nu­clear is­sue could prob­a­bly be the first for­eign pol­icy tar­get in the first year of the in­com­ing Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. And with the Six-Party Talks be­ing sus­pended, Trump has to find a new way to ne­go­ti­ate with the DPRK, which could re­ally re­struc­ture the re­gional se­cu­rity sit­u­a­tion. The author is the head of Amer­i­can Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies at the In­sti­tute of Amer­i­can Stud­ies, China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

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