The five-nation Asia tour by President Donald Trump would be an important trip that would reflect on US’ commitment to meet the challenges posed by North Korea’s nuclear breakout and China’s bid for regional hegemony, according to a media report. Trump has left the White House on a 13-day trip during which he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. The trip is not only Trump’s longest foreign trip as the US president but also the longest trip undertaken by a US president to Asia in more than a quarter century. “Donald Trump’s visit to East Asia next week is the most important trip of his Presidency so far, and the most important Asian trip by a US president in more than a decade,” The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board said after Trump left for Asia.
“His meetings and speeches will send a message, for good or ill, about the US commitment to meet the challenges of North Korea’s nuclear breakout and China’s bid for regional hegemony,” the daily said in a lead editorial. Tensions have dramatically risen on the Korean peninsula after North Korea, early in September, conducted its biggest nuclear test, which its state-run KCNA news agency described as a hydrogen bomb. The report said Japan, Australia and India are moving toward a quadrilateral alliance with the US that could become the cornerstone of the Indo-Pacific vision. The rationale is obvious, it argued. “Constraints on US defence spending limit any military buildup, while China’s military budget continues to grow even faster than its economy. Asia’s Pax Americana needs to evolve into a collective defence regime among the region’s democracies,” it said. However, there are several obstacles in the way, it said.
South Koreans are naturally sensitive about cooperation with Japan given their colonial past. “India has doubts about Australia’s reliability after then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd pulled out of joint exercises a decade ago. Asian countries are increasingly reliant on China as a trading partner and investment source and thus are nervous about offending Beijing,” it said. Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the Democratic Caucus’ National Security Task Force— Congressmen Seth Moulton, Stephanie Murphy, and Jimmy Panetta in a statement urged the President to use his trip to demonstrate the United States’ ironclad commitment to security, stability and economic prosperity in the region, and send a clear signal of steadfastness to ally and adversary alike.
The lawmakers urged the president to chart a careful course that avoids capitulation to, or catastrophic war with, North Korea. “This trip provides an opportunity for the president to repair any damage to our alliance with South Korea caused by the president’s bellicose statements that do not sufficiently recognise the catastrophic risks that military conflict would pose for South Korea, his suggestion that the US might withdraw from the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, and by his tweet accusing South Korea’s president of ‘appeasement’,” it said. China in the past had given less access to the American media during presidential visits, Politico reported.
“On previous presidential trips, the Chinese government has often sought to limit the access of the US travelling press corps, attempting to bar reporters from events or limiting their ability to ask questions,” it said. “Past US leaders have typically set aside whatever beefs they had with the media to push back on their Chinese counterparts, but no president has attacked the press like Trump,” it said. The White House, according to Politico, said that it does not expect any problems. “We are working with our counterparts in China to make sure there is press coverage where appropriate. At this time, we do not have reason for concern and are very much looking forward to being there,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told the media outlet.