Trump’s vic­tory casts pall of un­cer­tainty over Asia Mid­dle pow­ers weigh Amer­i­can un­pre­dictabil­ity

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BEI­JING: Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s vague and am­bigu­ous for­eign pol­icy po­si­tions have cast a pall of un­cer­tainty over whether Amer­i­can in­flu­ence will de­cline in Asia, or if it will re­main a force to be reck­oned with, an­a­lysts say. The real es­tate ty­coon-turned-politi­cian fre­quently sav­aged China on the cam­paign trail, even call­ing it Amer­ica’s “en­emy” and pledg­ing to stand up to a coun­try he says views the US as a pushover. But he has also in­di­cated he is not in­ter­ested in get­ting in­volved in far-off squab­bles, say­ing Amer­ica is sick of pay­ing to de­fend al­lies like Ja­pan and South Korea, even sug­gest­ing they should de­velop their own nu­clear weapons.

“Trump could play the iso­la­tion­ist card and strike a deal with China to share regional in­flu­ence,” said Ashley Town­shend of the United States Stud­ies Cen­tre at the University of Syd­ney. “But he might equally de­cide to adopt a firm mil­i­tary stance on a coun­try he thinks re­gards Amer­ica as weak.” Trump has of­fered no clear pre­scrip­tions for the geopo­lit­i­cal is­sues that plague the re­la­tion­ship be­tween Wash­ing­ton and Bei­jing, from Bei­jing’s ter­ri­to­rial claims in the South China Sea to North Korea’s nu­clear pro­gram and the fu­ture of Tai­wan. “At this junc­ture, gov­ern­ments around the world can­not de­pend on any par­tic­u­lar set of US poli­cies, since Trump’s some­times flip for­eign pol­icy state­ments were of­ten con­tra­dic­tory,” said Gra­ham Web­ster, a US-China ex­pert at Yale Law School.

Iso­la­tion­ist US?

In re­cent months, de­spite Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s for­eign pol­icy “pivot” to Asia the US has seen some of its regional al­lies be­gin to drift into Bei­jing’s sphere of in­flu­ence-at­tracted by the eco­nomic ap­peal of the neigh­bor­hood’s biggest player. Newly elected Philip­pines Pres­i­dent Rodrigo Duterte cosied up to China dur­ing a trip to the coun­try last month, and has threat­ened to sever mil­i­tary re­la­tions with Wash­ing­ton. Malaysia, too, has seem­ingly be­gun to eye im­prov­ing re­la­tions with the world’s sec­ond­largest econ­omy.

The prospect of an iso­la­tion­ist US un­der Pres­i­dent Trump could quicken that trickle as the de­vel­op­ing coun­tries of South­east Asia see Bei­jing-with its fis­cal largesse and huge con­sumer base - as a bet­ter bet than a pro­tec­tion­ist US. Mean­while, Trump’s as­ser­tions that he will re­quire Ja­pan and South Korea to pay more for US de­fense as­sis­tance has led those coun­tries, too, to worry about how the new pres­i­dency may re­shape long-es­tab­lished re­la­tion­ships, said Rory Med­calf, head of the na­tional se­cu­rity col­lege at the Australian Na­tional University.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.