AMERICA’s Asia-Pacific allies and competitors are all hoping the current projections for the U.S. presidential election materialise into victory for Hillary Clinton on Nov 8.
The desire for a Clinton rather than Trump presidency unites U.S. allies Japan, South Korea and Australia, and strategic competitors and foes China, Russia and North Korea.
Regional allies and competitors of the US are united in hoping for a Clinton victory because she offers stability and certainty. The greatest fear of a Trump presidency is not that he may use nuclear weapons or tear up trade deals or aggravate regional tensions. While these are all horrendous and unpalatable scenarios, what the region most fears about Donald Trump is his unpredictability. No one – perhaps even Trump himself – knows what he will do on any given day.
Whatever their respective stance vis-à-vis the U.S., Asia-Pacific nations can be certain Clinton’s foreign policy will be measured and deliberative. They know Clinton’s views and outlook on most issues. She is well known in the region. Familiarity and personal connections are among her strongest diplomatic credentials. Clinton’s international profile over the past quarter of a century and her tenure as Secretary of State demonstrate her strong diplomatic skills.
In contrast, Trump seemingly lacks even the most rudimentary diplomatic skills. Former Australian Foreign Minister, Gareth Evans, likely echoed widely held regional sentiments when he said Trump “combines complete ignorance about everything with a visible lack of judgment about anything”.
China and Russia will challenge U.S. strategic objectives. North Korea will continue its nuclear program. The strategic interests of the US, Japan, South Korea and Australia will remain aligned. These nations will challenge or seek to influence American foreign policy to serve their interests.
America’s regional allies and competitors can be certain Clinton will pursue a foreign policy promoting U.S. interests through co-operation. The region can be confident the U.S. will abide by its agreements. Consistency and co-operation will likely define Clinton’s foreign policy. Clinton is unlikely to pursue U.S. interests through the unilateral exertion of American power throughout the region.
China knows the U.S. will not accept its assertiveness in the South China Sea. Washington and Beijing know each do not want an open conflict. There will likely be no resolution in the short to medium term over international access and the artificial islands. But Washington and Beijing will continue their diplomatic dialogue and seek to contain tensions. Beijing knows Clinton, and will be much more comfortable dealing with her rather than with an unpredictable and unknown Trump.
North Korea will continue its nuclear program despite vehement U.S. opposition. Washington is united with its regional allies and competitors in wanting to thwart North Korea’s nuclear ambitions but a solution to this intractable impasse would require seemingly improbable policy changes and co-operation between each of these nations. There is no military option to curbing North Korea’s nuclear program. Despite the tensions, Pyongyang and America’s allies and competitors can be confident Clinton will ensure the U.S. works co-operatively in North East-Asia in dealing with North Korea. Conversely, Trump’s unpredictability would increase apprehension in an already tense situation.
The strategic interests of Japan, South Korea and Australia will continue to be closely aligned with those of the U.S. These allies have similar rather than identical interests to the U.S. and each will therefore seek to influence American foreign policy to suit its interests. Tokyo, Seoul and Canberra will be much more likely to exert some influence in Washington with Clinton who has demonstrated her capacity to work with allies, rather than with Trump who has not articulated any consistent approach or propensity to working with allies.
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Japan, South Korea and Australia would also be much more likely to successfully urge or persuade the U.S. to exercise restraint in any regional crisis with Clinton rather than Trump in the White House. Clinton has demonstrated she is much more adept and familiar with the political and diplomatic instruments of conflict resolution than Trump.
Based on current trends, Clinton will be the next President of the United States.
This will be welcomed by America’s Asia-Pacific allies and competitors because she offers certainty and stability whereas Trump is perceived as unpredictable and volatile. All regional foreign policy makers – U.S. allies and competitors – will always prefer the former rather than the latter. These allies and competitors know Clinton but are wary of Trump.
** This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of Asian Correspondent