Trump on Whirl­wind Asia Tour: US At­tempt to Con­sol­i­date Po­si­tion in “Indo-Pa­cific”

People's Review - - LEADER - BY PRABASI NEPALI

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has em­barked on a speedy 12-day, 5-na­tion ex­cur­sion/ex­pe­di­tion of North-East and South-East Asia. It is an at­tempt by his for­eign pol­icy and na­tional se­cu­rity ex­perts to sta­bi­lize United States' role in the re­gion. It is, in fact, a con­tin­u­a­tion of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama's pol­icy of ‘ Pivoting' [Swivel­ing] to­wards the Asia-Pa­cific, i.e. con­cen­trat­ing in this re­gion and away from Europe and the West­ern Hemi­sphere. In an at­tempt to dis­tin­guish this “new” pol­icy from that of Obama (af­ter all ev­ery­thing that Obama achieved or even stands for is anath­ema to Trump, the “Great Deal-Maker”), the ex­perts have given a new twist to this pol­icy as a nascent re-ori­en­ta­tion to­wards “Asia-Pa­cific” amal­ga­mat­ing the Pa­cific and In­dian Oceans in a new strate­gic con­cept, and meld­ing Ja­pan, South Korea, In­dia and Aus­tralia to the United States in a novel strate­gic part­ner­ship. If Trump was not so sure of him­self, and had not be­come dis­rep­utable at home and abroad, his clos­est ad­vi­sors could even pro­mote the idea of a new “Trump Doc­trine” [!] Trump has now reached Tokyo on the first leg of his Asia tour af­ter a brief stopover in Hawaii, where he was briefed from the US Pa­cific Com­mand and vis­ited Pearl Har­bour, where be­fore the out­break of the Sec­ond World War, the US was caught com­pletely un­awares by a sur­prise Ja­panese air at­tack. Now, of course, for­mer foes are stead­fast friends and al­lies since nearly seven decades. The US is look­ing to present a united front with Ja­pan and South Korea against North Korea as ten­sions run high over Py­ongyang's nuclear and mis­sile tests. These bal­lis­tic mis­sile tests by North Korea and its sixth and largest nuclear test to date, in de­fi­ance of UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions, have ex­ac­er­bated the most cru­cial in­ter­na­tional chal­lenge of Trump's pres­i­dency. Ae­rial drills con­ducted over South Korea by two strate­gic bombers from Guam have raised ap­pren­sion in re­cent days. Trump has un­nec­es­sar­ily ag­gra­vated ten­sions by at­tack­ing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un ver­bally and nick­nam­ing him “Lit­tle Rocket Man”. Kim has replied in kind, (call­ing him a ‘do­tard', a weak and se­nile old person) and now one is the neme­sis of the other. Shortly af­ter ar­riv­ing in Ja­pan on Sun­day, Trump spoke to US and Ja­panese forces at US Yokota air base in Tokyo. Avoid­ing all off-the­cuff re­marks and in mea­sured tones, Trump stressed the im­por­tance of the North-East Asian al­liances to re­gional se­cu­rity. In a dis­play of golf diplo­macy, Trump played a round of golf with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, re­cently strength­ened do­mes­ti­cally in a land­slide par­lia­men­tary vic­tory in the Diet. The two lead­ers also played to­gether in Florida ear­lier this year. The chem­istry be­tween them seems to func­tion, how­ever there are grave dif­fer­ences re­gard­ing trade, which have not yet been ar­tic­u­lated. Trump is af­ter all a grave dis­rupter of mul­ti­lat­eral trade agree­ments. Trade will fac­tor heav­ily dur­ing Trump's Asian trip as he tries to per­suade al­lies to agree to bi­lat­eral trade poli­cies more favourable to the United States. This will be a prob­lem also with China. Trump's trip is to be dom­i­nated by trade and how to muster more in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on North Korea to give up nuclear weapons. How­ever, Trump has rat­tled both Ja­pan and South Korea by threat­en­ing “fire and fury” and his vow to “to­tally de­stroy” North Korea if it threat­ens the United States and his dis­missal of Kim as on a sui­cide mis­sion. His na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Gen. H.R. McMaster has de­fended his boss: “What's in­flam­ma­tory is the North Korean regime and what they are do­ing to threaten the world.” Both South Korea and Ja­pan are aware that even a non-nuclear, lim­ited con­ven­tional war would re­sult in mil­lions of ca­su­al­ties (in­clud­ing US mil­i­tary, de­pen­dants and ex­pa­tri­ates). This has not been fac­tored by Trump in his equa­tion of con­flict with North Korea. Trump will seek a united front with the lead­ers of Ja­pan and South Korea against North Korea be­fore vis­it­ing Bei­jing to make the case to Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping that he should do more to rein in Py­ongyang. Xi now the most pow­er­ful leader of China af­ter the era of the leg­endary Mao Ze­dong, is def­i­nitely on the horns of a dilemma, but will in no circumstance go the ex­tent of tol­er­at­ing the col­lapse of the dis­taste­ful North Korean regime. First, this would mean mil­lions of poor and famished refugees in China's bor­der ar­eas. Sec­ond, the dis­in­te­gra­tion would cre­ate a geo-po­lit­i­cal night­mare – the with­er­ing away of a strate­gic buf­fer and the re­uni­fi­ca­tion of the Korean penin­sula al­lied closely to the United States, China's arch ri­val in world af­fairs. Ad­dress­ing US and Ja­panese troops at Yokota air base near Tokyo, Trump said: “no-one, no dic­ta­tor, no regime . . . should un­der­es­ti­mate Amer­i­can re­solve”[ clearly point­ing to Kim Jong Un ], as he ar­rived in Ja­pan at the start of his marathon Asian tour -- the long­est tour of Asia by a US pres­i­dent in 25 years. He also pledged to en­sure the US mil­i­tary had the re­sources needed to keep peace and de­fend free­dom. Be­fore touch­ing down, he told re­porters on board Air Force One that he ex­pected to meet Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin dur­ing his trip (in Viet­nam), and also say­ing: “We want Putin's help on North Korea” with­out con­sid­er­ing that Rus­sia's role can only be very mi­nor and sup­ple­men­tary. In Tokyo, Trump went on to meet Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe for lunch be­fore the two lead­ers played a round of golf. They were joined by Hideki Mat­suyama, one of the world's top golfers. In South Korea, both the lead­er­ship and the ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple are ap­palled by the bel­li­cose US at­ti­tude vis-à-vis North Korea. They would rather pre­fer a peace­ful de­noue­ment of the con­flict. Thus, thou­sands of South Kore­ans protested on Sun­day against an up­com­ing visit by Trump on Wed­nes­day. Trump him­self made the Del­phic ut­ter­ance: “The time for strate­gic pa­tience” with North Korea is over.


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