U.S. foreign policy will now depend on Donald Trump’s key appointments and the extent to which the U.S. foreign policy establishment can exert a restraining influence on them, an analyst said.
Evan Laksmana at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, Indonesia, says “even if he did only half of what he promised in foreign affairs, he could do a serious amount of damage in a short time.”
Within Asia, Japan and South Korea won’t accept Chinese predominance, he said, and would become independently more assertive if their alliances with the U.S. weakened.
The analyst said weaker states in Southeast Asia might slip further within China’s orbit if there’s a protracted sense the U.S. is not involved in the region.
“We are in for a bumpy ride,” Laksmana said.
In an editorial piece, Washington-based associate editor at The Diplomat Magazine, Prashanth Parameswaran, said Trump’s headline-grabbing rhetoric appeared to signal a radical departure away from all four pillars of outgoing President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia.
Although Obama’s realignment focused on building partnerships; strengthening regional institutions; deepening economic engagement; and promoting democracy and human rights, Prashanth said the extent of change under trump may not be as dramatic as anticipated.
However, Prashanth, who is a Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University doctoral candidate, echoed Laksmana’s view on Trump’s key appointments, warning of uncertainties of U.S. foreign policy under the Trump administration toward Asia.
Prashanth said it was unknown whether Trump’s actual views may translate into policymaking where Asia was concerned. He said unlike his opponent Hillary Clinton, whose Asia policy team was comprised of known quantities, Trump’s foreign policy advisers in general are much less well-known.
“The composition and hierarchy of the advisers could also change depending on whether we see mainstream Republican foreign policy experts who initially opposed Trump now return to serve under the president in 2017 and beyond,” he said.
“Beyond personalities, we also do not know how exactly Trump will choose to receive and act on the advice he gets. Based on what we know about Trump, he does not read much and often ignores advice,” he added.
Meanwhile, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida says Japan is working on building ties with Trump and his advisers so Tokyo is well-prepared in case of any policy changes under his presidency.
Kishida says on TV it’s still unclear how Trump’s policy and his political leadership will affect Japan, and it may “require our flexible response.” Trump has said Japan should pay more for American troops stationed in Japan under the bilateral security pact or pull them out.
Kishida says Japan is still trying to understand how important the Asia-Pacific region is to Trump.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press