Swim­ming on the Pa­cific Rim

Trump demon­strates that Amer­ica is still the big­gest fish in the sea

The Washington Times Weekly - - Editorials -

came, I saw, I con­ferred,” may not match Julius Cae­sar’s his­toric de­scrip­tion of his for­eign ad­ven­ture, but Pres­i­dent Trump’s 12day Asia trip is meant to con­quer doubts that the United States is still the power to be reck­oned with across the Pa­cific (and ev­ery­where else). When dis­rup­tive forces test tra­di­tional regional al­liances, over is­sues of trade, free pas­sage on the open sea and the de­nu­cle­ariza­tion of the rogue regime in North Korea, the United States is the in­dis­pens­able bridge over troubled wa­ters.

Us­ing a lay­over in Honolulu on his way out, the pres­i­dent spoke of the na­tion’s heart­break two gen­er­a­tions ago when diplo­macy failed and the Ja­panese at­tacked on Pearl Har­bor, and the world paid for it. With the first lady at his side, Mr. Trump seeks to ease the fears of Ja­pan’s 127 mil­lions who live now un­der the threat of North Korea’s mis­siles.

To­gether with Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, Mr. Trump bucked up U.S. and Ja­panese mil­i­tary forces at Yokota Air Base in Ja­pan be­fore the two played a round of golf. Hap­pi­ness in troubled times is hav­ing a golf­ing part­ner whose game is backed by three air­craft car­rier groups pa­trolling the sea nearby.

Mr. Trump is sched­uled meet Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in Tues­day in the shadow of nu­clear men­ace. Even fore­go­ing an ex­cur­sion to the De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone, the pres­i­dent nev­er­the­less puts him­self in the cross-hairs of the Rocket Man’s ar­ma­ments, which would be only sec­onds away.

Mr. Trump is ex­pected to ap­ply spine-stiff­en­ing pres­sure on Mr. Moon in a speech to South Korea’s Na­tional Assem­bly. Pres­i­dent Moon is trapped in his own rhetor­i­cal DMZ, hav­ing pledged to tol­er­ate no provo­ca­tion from the North nor al­low the South to trig­ger con­flict that could lead to new war on the Korean Penin­sula. Some mil­i­tary and diplo­mat ob­servers think Rocket Man might be tempted to or­der a new nu­clear test for the oc­ca­sion, just to over­shadow the cer­e­monies in “the land of the morn­ing calm.”

Like blips on a radar screen, China counts the stops on Mr. Trump’s Asian jour­ney as he ap­proaches per­haps his most im­por­tant stop, Bei­jing. There, the pres­i­dent will re­quire the best of his deal-mak­ing pow­ers if he is to per­suade Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping that with regional sta­bil­ity hang­ing by a thread he can no longer es­cape the re­spon­si­bil­ity to per­suade Mr. Kim to aban­don the threat of nu­clear war­fare. Mr. Trump boldly signed an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in Septem­ber di­rect­ing for­eign banks to choose be­tween do­ing busi­ness with the United States or North Korea. China has been a loyal trad­ing part­ner to both na­tions. But money talks, and the $479 bil­lion China earned in sales to the United States last year dwarfs the $3 bil­lion Bei­jing earned in busi­ness with Py­ongyang. Some­thing with sim­i­lar con­se­quences would be help­ful.

If China needs ad­di­tional con­vinc­ing, Mr. Trump could re­mind him that Bei­jing is on his list for pil­fer­ing $600 bil­lion an­nu­ally in in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty from Amer­i­can businesses. A crack­down would jar the Chi­nese econ­omy.

Mr. Trump be­lat­edly de­cided to at­tend a summit of Pa­cific Rim lead­ers con­ve­niently meet­ing in Manila, tack­ing an ex­tra day on his gru­el­ing road trip. He will have an op­por­tu­nity there to meet Vladimir Putin, the Rus­sian pres­i­dent. It was an op­por­tu­nity to al­lay the fears of Asian al­lies, who ar­gued that if Mr. Trump didn’t make it to Manila it would raise ques­tions about whether the United States re­ally wants to be the power in Asia. “I came, I saw, I con­ferred” may not sound heroic, but ap­pear­ances can some­times be re­as­sur­ing.

Even fore­go­ing an ex­cur­sion to the De­mil­i­ta­rized Zone, the pres­i­dent nev­er­the­less puts him­self in the crosshairs of the Rocket Man’s ar­ma­ments, which would be only sec­onds away.

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