Sankei News: What to make of Bannon’s Resignation?

#TrumpsJapan

This article  in the Sankei News 産経ニュース, covers the latest (?) shake-up in the Trump White House. It also shows Japanese readers how the event was portrayed in news media outlets both in the US and abroad.

Image result for bannon
Obama Care wouldn’t let him stick with his old dermatologist.

The title is rather long in English, “The Ripple Effect of Bannon’s Dismissal, [Trump’s] Most Influential Advisor–US Papers: ‘The Problem is Now Trump is on His Own,’  Israeli Papers: ‘[Bannon’s] Resignation Poses even Greater Danger.'”

The article begins with really emphasizing how influential Bannon has been, both during the run up to Trump’s election as well as during the first six months of his presidency, crediting Bannon with Trump’s anti-globalization stance and his “America First” policies.

It then continues to show the contrasting coverage in US and Israeli newspapers of Bannon’s early exit . The US papers are said to portray this as a positive step for Trump’s beleaguered administration, while the Israeli papers see Bannon’s departure as threatening.

For the US, Bannon’s sayonara will offer Trump’s administration a chance to re-group and re-organize–to right the ship, so to speak.

For Israel, Bannon’s anti-Israel stance will only be amplified once he is free of the White House’s burden, where veteran GOP leaders presumably have placed a gag order on his most inflammatory ideas.

Sankei News then goes on to provided examples of the coverage as it appeared in the The Wall Street JournalThe Guardian, and Haaretz.

These last six PLUS months, ordinary Japanese citizens have really had trouble trying to understand what to make of [President] Trump. Translators who are tasked with putting his “speeches” into Japanese often find themselves at a loss–not so much with his scripted speech, but with his off the wall free-talking that appears to follow no logical flow and is often unrelated to the topic at hand.

US-Japan policy experts also have had the rug pulled out from underneath them multiple times these last months, as Trump continues to reverse, re-write, and regress US policy with Japan and the greater Asian region.

So when it comes to Trump’s most influential adviser leaving the White House, what I think this Sankei News article is saying to its readers is, “Not even the US, UK, or Israel know what to make of it! We’re not alone in our uncertainty!”

Strange times…

 

*NOTE: Sankei News describes itself as a “reactionary and center-right political newspaper.” It’s newspaper enjoys the sixth highest circulation in Japan.

 

 

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Surviving the Trump Presidency

After Donald Trump’s November 2016 election, the future looked bright for the US’s alliance with the Land of the Rising Sun. The first foreign leader to visit the US and meet personally with then President-elect Trump was Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzō, who flew to New York to congratulate The Donald in person. Shortly after that in December, Trump met with Japanese telecom mogul Masayoshi Son, founder and CEO of Softbank, and discussed major investment opportunities for Softbank in America–music to Trump’s ears. The two billionaires were quite comfortable in each other’s company, showing a degree of informal-ness that took the Japanese public off guard (Trump referred to Son time and time again in interviews by his nickname “Masa,” which is contrary to Japan’s strict etiquette). Abe visited Trump a second time shortly after his inauguration, when the two put business aside and hit the links in Florida, just like old buddies. Despite these promising encounters during Trump’s first months as President-elect and later as President, a recent article appearing on Nippon.com seems to hint that the 65 year Japan-US alliance is doomed to set.

The article, Can the Japan-US Alliance Survive the Trump Presidency? by Nakayama Toshihiro (Professor of American politics and foreign policy, Keiō University), highlights concerns over Trump’s erratic foreign policy–surely Japan is not alone in their uneasiness. Japan had been enjoying eight years of an Obama presidency and his policy of “rebalancing toward Asia.” This rebalancing came at a time when Japan, too, was making moves to improve ties with its Asian neighbors–not only with South Korea and China, but also with smaller countries such as Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia. This renewed confidence in Asia may have been what spurred the creation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a multilateral, multi-continental trade agreement among twelve nations bordering the Pacific Ocean.

Under Trump’s policy of America-first, the US’s pivot to Asia seems to have come to an end. The fact that on his first day in office Trump kicked the legs out of any possibility of the US’s participation in TPP drove home the America-first message. Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was banking on the success of TPP to both strengthen Japan’s manufacturing exports to places like Central and South America, while at the same time boosting its agricultural imports from southeast Asia. Now that the US has pulled out of the deal, a few of the remaining  nations, whom Japan depends on, may also follow suit.

Trump took his first overseas diplomatic trip this past week, choosing to go to Saudi Arabia of all places. Although this may appear to be yet another example of his pivoting away from Asia and thus a deescalation of the Japan-US alliance, it is the opinion of this blogger that Prime Minister Abe and Japan have nothing to fear in terms of garnering future favor from the US. New construction of US military installations in Okinawa is continuing according to schedule, and as long as North Korea’s boy-leader Kim Jong-un keeps playing with fire, Japan will remain the US’s strongest and most important ally in Asia and the greater Pacific region.