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Editorial: U.S. withdrawal from TPP has huge impact on region

The U.S. administration led by President Donald Trump has yet to clarify the U.S.’s strategic posture in Asia. If this creates a vacuum in Asia, it will be difficult to solve the various problems that beset the region. The situation in Asia is extremely serious.


The recent series of ASEAN meetings in the Philippines left the impression of an ineffectual America.


North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile development and China’s unilateral maritime push into the South China and East China Seas are the urgent security challenges confronting the region. The U.S. should clearly demonstrate its commitment to dealing with these issues and maintaining its presence in the region.


The U.S. achieved results to some extent in applying pressure on the North. At the United Nations Security Council it led efforts to adopt a resolution that bans the regime’s exports of coal among other things. During the ASEAN meetings, it pressed participating nations to strictly implement the sanctions.


However, on the issue of the South China Sea, China seized leadership. Although China is building military bases in the ocean, the ASEAN Regional Forum’s chairman statement and other documents issued this year toned down the expression of “concern” compared with last year. 


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson seldom holds press conferences. The U.S. releases few messages and statements on its strategy or even on its diplomatic activities. The White House is having trouble filling positions. The State Department is not functioning well. The underlying cause of all these problems is that President Trump has yet to set out a clear policy vision.


Former U.S. President Barack Obama advocated rebalancing toward Asia. Putting aside discussion of whether or not this policy produced results, with regards to the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, he stressed that the U.S. would not let China create new trade rules for Asia and guaranteed U.S. engagement.


Does President Trump have in mind a vision equivalent to his predecessor’s?


The U.S. withdrawal from the TPP symbolizes a U.S. reversal of course. ASEAN is trying to carefully gauge the direction in which this superpower is heading. If the U.S. fails to formulate a vision, China will accelerate efforts to undermine U.S. influence in the region.


Japan, an ally of the U.S., bears a heavy responsibility for urging the U.S. to actively engage in the region.



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