President Donald Trump’s Direct Approach has Shaken the Status Quo
“For the 1st time in decades, America’s oldest allies are questioning where DC’s heart is.”— Fumiaki Kubo
This week, US President Donald Trump and The Trump Team hit out at some of America’s closest friends, blasting a “dumb” refugee resettlement deal with Australia and accusing Japan and Germany of manipulating their currencies.
Ties with Mexico have deteriorated to the point its government had to deny reports that President Trump told President Enrique Pena Nieto he might send US troops across the southern border.
“When you hear about the tough phone calls I have, don’t worry about it,” President Trump said to an audience of religious and political leaders at the National Prayer Breakfast, a yearly event in Washington. “The world is in trouble — but we’re going to straighten it out, ok? That’s what I do.”
Government officials world wide are trying figuring out if President Trump’s direct approach and blunt style is a tactic to keep them off balance or the start of a move to tear up the rule book that has guided relations with the US since World War II.
Meantime, US allies are preparing for the worst, as President Trump moves to put America First.
President Trump’s public attacks on some America’s friends in Asia marks a sharp contrast from the Hussein-Obama Administration, which sought to build a united front against China’s military and economic clout.
President Trump suggestes Asian nations should pay more for US security and pulled out of a 12-nation TPP trade deal.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has a big concern when he meets President Trump on 10 February as Japan depends on the US to protect it from China and North Korea.
Thursday, Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull found himself under fire in the US and at home.
In a late-night Tweet, President Trump blasted a deal that involved the US resettling refugees that are being held by Australia in offshore camps, many of them from the Middle East or South Asia.
“Do you believe it?
The Obama Admin agreed to take thousands of illegal immigrants from Australia. Why? I will study this dumb deal!”
President Trump told Mr. Turnbull he had spoken to several other global leaders that day, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, and “this was the worst call by far,” according to leaked transcripts of the call.
Mr. Turnbull said he still expects the deal will go ahead. He added he was “very disappointed” over the leak and said the call with Trump ended “courteously.”
US Defense Secretary James Mattis, visiting South Korea and Japan reaffirmed the US commitment to defend South Korea against North Korea.
Thursday President Trump warned Iran had been “put on notice” for testing ballistic missiles. “Iran was on its last legs and ready to collapse until the US came along and gave it a life-line in the form of the Iran Deal: $150-B,” President Trump said.
Key tests for President Trump in Asia will be whether he reaffirms that the mutual defense treaty with Japan applies to islands also claimed by China, and if he continues freedom-of-navigation operations in Asia’s waterways, according to Fumiaki Kubo, a professor at the University of Tokyo.
“Even if Mr. Trump says something very positive, we may not be really reassured yet unless positive words are followed up by concrete action,” Professor Kubo said. “There’s no advance consultation with allies in the region, so there are many things to be concerned about.”
China’s President Xi Jinping sees himself as a champion of globalization in recent months, and sought to accelerate the passage of a regional trade agreement initiated by Southeast Asian nations.
Beijing has a lot to lose if things go wrong.
A trade war (currency war) with the US could worsen an economic slowdown in a politically sensitive year, with the Communist Party set to shift many of its top leaders.
China is embroiled in a dispute with several Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, an area where it has reclaimed reefs and built military outposts.
New Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has pledged to challenge China over the waterway.
“China has no idea at the moment about how to deal with Trump and taking a cautious approach,” said an associate professor of Asian studies at City University of Hong Kong. “The one question that everyone is looking at in the region — and this goes to the web of security partnerships in Asia, is what is going to happen between the US and China over the South China Sea.”