Trump's pivot to Asia?

On Thursday, President-elect Trump met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in an unexpectedly lengthy meeting. Will campaign rhetoric over Asia (and much else) translate into the reality of government?

Trump and Abe met for 90 minutes on Thursday
Michael Auslin
On 18 November 2016 11:30

Within 48 hours of being elected president of the United States, Donald Trump was in touch with America’s two main allies in Asia.

A phone call from South Korean President Park Geun-hye and an agreement to meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York this week began the transition from campaigning to governing, laying the groundwork for policies that will come into effect in January.

Still, this cooperative start to Mr. Trump’s Asia policy doesn’t erase the many problems he will face once inaugurated.

While not unexpected, the president-elect’s willingness to talk with both Ms. Park and Mr. Abe marks a change from his campaign trail rhetoric.

He shocked friends and adversaries alike by openly questioning the value of key regional alliances, threatening to walk away from them if Tokyo and Seoul failed to pay more for the privilege of hosting U.S. forces for their own defense.

Mr. Trump even indicated he might encourage both countries to pursue an independent nuclear capability, thereby ending the decades-long American guarantee of extended deterrence.

Mr. Trump also mused about a potential trade war in Asia, punishing both China and Japan for their supposed currency manipulation and unfair trading practices.

His adamant rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) showed disregard for years of negotiations and the promise of a new liberal trade architecture in the Asia-Pacific.

As with so much about the President-elect, it remains to be seen how campaign rhetoric translates into the practice of government.

A full-text version of this article may be found in The Wall Street Journal. Michael Auslin is a resident scholar and the director of Japan Studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he specializes in Asian regional security and political issues. Before joining AEI, Auslin was an associate professor of history at Yale University. His articles can be read here

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