Worry, doubt and in­dig­na­tion as Asia awaits Trump

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World -

DON­ALD Trump vowed a more “un­pre­dictable” for­eign pol­icy when he cam­paigned for pres­i­dent. Mis­sion ac­com­plished, if the mood in Asia ahead of his first pres­i­den­tial trip to the re­gion is any in­di­ca­tion.

Much like the pre­lude to a bruis­ing typhoon, Trump’s up­com­ing visit has in­spired fear, res­ig­na­tion, in­dig­na­tion, mor­bid cu­rios­ity — even, ac­cord­ing to one South Korean politi­cian, feel­ings of na­tional dis­grace.

Dur­ing his first months as pres­i­dent, Trump, who will visit Ja­pan, South Korea and China be­fore at­tend­ing re­gional sum­mits in Viet­nam and the Philip­pines, has blended mo­ments of flattery with vows to rip up trade deals, de­stroy a sovereign na­tion with nu­clear weapons and gen­er­ally crash long-stand­ing norms of diplo­macy any­where it suits his aims.

He has wined and dined the lead­ers of China and Ja­pan, and been fawned over in re­turn, and his shaky ties with South Korea’s leader have led to wor­ries that Wash­ing­ton could take mil­i­tary ac­tion against North Korea with­out Seoul’s ap­proval.

Loom­ing over his en­tire trip is one of the strangest re­la­tion­ships in the world — an of­ten sur­real ex­change of threats of an­ni­hi­la­tion be­tween North Korean dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un and Trump, who has also oc­ca­sion­ally of­fered praise and di­a­logue.

It’s some­thing of a marvel then that de­spite Trump’s un­pre­dictabil­ity and the tor­pe­do­ing of an Obama-era trade deal, there may ac­tu­ally be more con­ti­nu­ity than change in Wash­ing­ton’s Asia pol­icy.

“Peo­ple joke that Wag­ner’s mu­sic is bet­ter than it sounds. The same can be said for Trump’s Asia pol­icy and re­la­tion­ships,” long­time Asia an­a­lyst Ralph Cossa said, re­fer­ring to the no­to­ri­ously com­plex German com­poser. “This will be put to the test when he goes to Asia, but I think the visit is likely to be more suc­cess­ful than many fear or pre­dict.”

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