TV Asahi sets a High Bar for Trump’s 1st Overseas Visit

This TV Asahi link, posted on May 20th, is an optimistic pre-departure report on President Trump’s 5-nation overseas trip. It touches on all the good things that one would expect to hear about the President of the United States. It mentions how Trump will be visiting the holy places associated with Islam, Judaism, and Christianity with the aim of encouraging world peace. It goes on to describe Trump’s goals in Saudi Arabia (where he’ll be pushing for policy to be written against both ISIS and Iran), in Israel (where he’ll be looking for a common thread for peace between Palestine and Israel), and in Italy (where he’ll have an audience with the Pope, who has been openly against Trump’s immigration policies, and then of course attending the G7).

Indeed, world peace is something all Americans (regardless of their support for Trump or lack thereof) and Japanese people can get behind. With this in mind, visiting Holy Lands of the world’s three major religions certainly sounded like a nice gesture. But then to go on and say that Trump will be looking towards Saudi Arabia for support in anti-Iran policy does not really sound like a solid plan towards world peace–just more of the ‘Us vs Them‘ that we have been hearing all along. ISIS is just as much an enemy of Iran as it is with America. Remember the idea that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend‘? The President would be wise to remember this.

As for brokering peace between Palestine and Israel–yeah, good luck with that.

And meeting with the Pope–I can not for the life of me understand why Trump would want to meet with the Pope, however this blogger is glad that he is. The soft power of Pope Francis is not to be under estimated. God willing, the encounter will have some positive effect on at least one person in the Trump entourage–hopefully enough of an effect to sway the administration’s course.

As for this trip’s effects on Japan, Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and participation in the G7 will cause the most concern. Japan has a benevolent relationship with Iran. There are quite a few Iranian scholars and researchers in Japan, including here at Akita University. Any new, stricter US sanctions against Iran that Trump wants to hash out with Saudi Arabia could cause problems for Japan.

As for ISIS and the greater threat of terror, Japan has not been immune. A few Japanese citizens were killed in an Islamic terrorist attack in Bangladesh last year, and a Japanese reporter (Kenji Goto 後藤健二) was taken hostage and murdered by ISIS in 2015.

Japan would be happy with any measures the Trump administration could take against ISIS, but nobody benefits from Trump refusing to at least trying to make US-Iran relations more amicable.

http://news.tv-asahi.co.jp/news_international/articles/000101196.html

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.