PERTH, Australia As the inauguration of Donald J. Trump approaches, a number of world leaders are stimulating last minute moves, bracing for Americas new chairperson and his unpredictable foreign policy techniques before theyre fully solidified. Asia is no different. There is more going on in the region than Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillersons stray South China Sea comments. The looming potential of an American retreat from the world and an escalating U.S.-China rivalry has nations busy, worried and watchful.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has made it clear that he plans to prioritize American interests as head of state, which could leave a vacuum for China to fill in Asia. But before Trump attains good on his promises( if he does) and Chinas President Xi Jinping follows through with the supposes he offered at the World Economic Forum in Davos this week( if he does ), regional players are complicating matters with both appeasement to Beijing and naval and weapons sales.
Vietnam is taking six more patrol barges from Japan and has indicated its intention of buying Indian missiles. At the same time, its top leader was in Beijing discussing peace and cooperation in the South China Sea as outgoing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made a last-ditch attempt to shore up U.S.-Vietnam ties while taking the odd side swipe at China.
The looming potential of an American retreat from the world and an escalating U.S.-China rivalry has nations busy, worried and watchful.
Whats next? There are a few prospects, all of them requiring significant strategic calculations within Asia. There is a possible move away from One China and a far more aggressive presence that would basically try to stop China accessing its newly built islands, but there is also talk of an American retreat from the region and a scaling back of bases in South Korea and Japan.
The spotlight thus far, especially in American media, has been on the U.S.-China war of words. Donald Trumps secretary of state pick, Rex Tillerson, attained strong comments during his Senate confirmation hearing last week comparing Chinas island building in the South China Sea to Russias annexation of Crimea. His remarks that China would not be allowed access to those islands had many in Southeast Asia wondering exactly what U.S. policy in the region would be.