Ex­pert dis­cusses U.S. ap­proach to Asia.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - Sen­tinel.com/Opin­ion.

What is the im­por­tance of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s re­cent swing through Asia? Why does Asia mat­ter to Amer­i­cans? How does the U.S. ap­proach to Asia af­fect Washington’s po­si­tion on the world stage? To an­swer these ques­tions, the Or­lando Sen­tinel Editorial Board con­sulted a for­mer mem­ber, the Univer­sity of Cen­tral Florida’s John C. Ber­sia, who won a Pulitzer Prize in editorial writ­ing for the Sen­tinel for 2000. Ber­sia, who has been the special as­sis­tant to the pres­i­dent for global per­spec­tives at UCF since 2001, is in­volved with var­i­ous pro­grams re­lated to Asia and teaches cour­ses on that sub­ject. For a full tran­script, go to Or­lando

Q: What is the United States’ top pri­or­ity in Asia un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump? A: While in Asia, Trump ad­dressed a wide range of top­ics, but his fo­cus kept re­turn­ing to se­cu­rity. Is­sues ranged from the paramount con­cern of North Korea and its nu­clear-weapons and mis­sile-de­vel­op­ment ef­forts to ten­sions in the South China Sea. The pres­i­dent even of­fered to lend his per­sonal me­di­a­tion-an­dar­bi­tra­tion abil­ity to the lat­ter. With­out se­cu­rity and the sta­bil­ity it en­cour­ages, the other as­pects of U.S. for­eign pol­icy in Asia would be more dif­fi­cult to achieve.

Q: Has Pres­i­dent Trump’s de­ci­sion to with­draw the United States from the Tran­sPa­cific Part­ner­ship weak­ened U.S. in­flu­ence in Asia? A: A pop­u­lar per­cep­tion is that the United States is an in­evitably di­min­ish­ing player in Asia — es­pe­cially since the re­main­ing TPP part­ners last week found a way for­ward with­out Washington. Mean­while, Beijing is ea­ger to take the lead eco­nom­i­cally and in other ar­eas in Asia. But the United States, de­spite its need to con­tend with ris­ing na­tions such as China, re­mains the sole su­per­power. Thus, the United States will be con­se­quen­tial — eco­nom­i­cally, po­lit­i­cally and mil­i­tar­ily — in Asia and else­where for the fore­see­able fu­ture. It is also use­ful to note that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has been more ac­tive in Asia than many peo­ple might think. Opin­ions may dif­fer as to its ef­fec­tive­ness, but the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion en­gaged in Asia early and of­ten, notably in Ja­pan. Fur­ther, Dhurva Jais­hanka, a fel­low in for­eign-pol­icy stud­ies at Brook­ings In­dia, re­cently opined that while things got off on the wrong foot — such as the TPP with­drawal — Trump and his team have “started to get some things right, es­pe­cially when it comes to Asia pol­icy.” That said, the U.S. role in Asia and the rest of the world must evolve. If this coun­try wishes to main­tain its rel­a­tive in­flu­ence and not face the pre­cip­i­tous de­cline that can be­fall weak­en­ing em­pires, it has to make some crit­i­cal choices in terms of strat­egy, part­ners and com­mit­ments in Asia. It can­not af­ford to be­come or be seen as a pa­per tiger. That means shoul­der­ing the re­spon­si­bil­ity of help­ing to shape the agenda in Asia and de­vel­op­ing a closer re­la­tion­ship with that re­gion.

Q: What does the United States stand to gain from a closer re­la­tion­ship with Asia? A: The rea­sons why Asia is im­por­tant to the United States are too long to list, from the re­gion’s grow­ing cen­tral­ity in the global econ­omy to the peace-and-se­cu­rity chal­lenges orig­i­nat­ing there that can reach Amer­ica’s shores. Whether the United States is seek­ing op­por­tu­nity or keep­ing track of strate­gic com­peti­tors and ad­ver­saries, it has a vested in­ter­est in hold­ing Asia close. For more in­for­ma­tion on this com­plex re­la­tion­ship, visit http://asia­mat­ters­foramer­ica.org/.

Q: Do U.S. ef­forts to strengthen re­la­tion­ships with other Asian na­tions, such as Viet­nam, Ja­pan and South Korea, work against U.S. ef­forts to strengthen ties with China? A: No, the United States needs to pur­sue both, just as China is do­ing. And let’s be clear about China’s over­all goal, which is to ad­vance its own in­ter­ests. Beijing does so with lan­guage that sounds in­clu­sive and ap­peals to the com­mon good, thus avoid­ing the off-putting ef­fect of frank state­ments such as Trump’s “Amer­ica First” po­si­tion.

The United States has bi­lat­eral and col­lec­tive in­ter­ests with all of the coun­tries of Asia, but in some cases the com­pelling con­nec­tion is stronger. One is the special re­la­tion­ship with Ja­pan, the linch­pin of U.S. se­cu­rity in­ter­ests in Asia and a key to the re­gion’s sta­bil­ity and suc­cess. An­other is the U.S.-South Korea part­ner­ship. There is also the need to build stronger re­la­tions with cer­tain coun­tries such as In­dia, the world’s largest democ­racy and, like China, a ris­ing power. The United States would ben­e­fit from ex­plic­itly rec­og­niz­ing In­dia as the linch­pin U.S. re­la­tion­ship in South Asia. Af­ter all, Washington and New Delhi share mul­ti­ple in­ter­ests — for ex­am­ple, se­cu­rity, sta­bil­ity and eco­nomic pros­per­ity — as well as val­ues. The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion re­cently reaf­firmed its sup­port for In­dia’s bid to be­come a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil. Such a re­form is long over­due.

Beijing is ea­ger to take the lead eco­nom­i­cally and in other ar­eas in Asia. But the United States, de­spite its need to con­tend with ris­ing na­tions such as China, re­mains the sole su­per­power.

ANDY WONG/AP

Pres­i­dent Trump chats with China’s Xi Jin­ping.

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