For all the pomp, ques­tions re­main on ac­tual progress, say an­a­lysts

New Straits Times - - World -


UNITED States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s marathon Asian trip passed off with­out any ma­jor in­ci­dent, but for all the pomp and cer­e­mony thrown his way, an­a­lysts say the tour ended with lit­tle to show in the way of con­crete achieve­ments.

Re­gional lead­ers vied with each other dur­ing the five-na­tion sweep to fete a pres­i­dent known for his par­tial­ity to grand ges­tures of hon­our and re­spect.

And it clearly worked.

“It was red car­pet like no­body, I think, has prob­a­bly ever re­ceived,” Trump said.

In Tokyo, a golf­ing date with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe was fol­lowed by a gala din­ner.

In Bei­jing, he toured the For­bid­den City as part of an ex­trav­a­gant “state visit-plus”, which also in­cluded a per­for­mance of Pek­ing Opera.

In Seoul, South Korean Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in gave a pres­i­den­tial toast in hon­our of a man who “is al­ready mak­ing Amer­ica great again”.

From Tokyo to here, via Seoul, Bei­jing, Danang and Hanoi, the 71-year-old pres­i­dent ham­mered out two pri­or­i­ties: in­creas­ing pres­sure on North Korea over its nu­clear weapons pro­gramme and push­ing for bet­ter ac­cess to Asian mar­kets for US com­pa­nies.

But ques­tions re­main as to what progress he ac­tu­ally made on ei­ther is­sue.

“If you com­pare the be­fore and af­ter of Trump’s Asia tour, noth­ing has re­ally changed (on the is­sue of North Korea),” Go My­ong-hyun, an an­a­lyst at the Asean In­sti­tute for Pol­icy Stud­ies, a Seoul-based think tank, said.

“Trump pushed Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping to ex­ert more pres­sure on North Korea to aban­don its nu­clear am­bi­tions, but Bei­jing, is stick­ing to its stance of lim­ited sanc­tions.”

Some ex­perts note, how­ever, that the meet­ing be­tween the pres­i­dents pow­ers could bear fruit in the medium term.

On the is­sue of trade, it was also un­clear whether Trump, who has ac­cused his Demo­crat and Repub­li­can pre­de­ces­sors of hav­ing failed for decades on in­ter­na­tional deals, bagged any ma­jor wins.

Bei­jing said it would ease lim­its on for­eign own­er­ship in the fi­nan­cial sec­tor, but ob­sta­cles re­main.

Trump an­nounced US$250 bil­lion (RM1 tril­lion) worth of con­tracts with China, but many were non-bind­ing mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing which will take years to bear fruit, if they ever do.

“These con­tracts are just a painkiller, mo­men­tary re­lief for China-US trade dis­putes,” saidCheng Xiaohe, as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions at Ren­min Univer­sity in Bei­jing. AFP

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