Trump-Abe meet can’t paper over cracks in alliance

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/11/17 23:33:39

US president-elect Donald Trump will meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York. This is the first time that Trump will meet a foreign leader since he won the election.  

Trump's victory has shocked Japan, and the Abe administration hastily went out to build contacts with the Trump team. Abe even changed his schedule for the APEC economic leaders' meeting to stay in New York especially for the meeting with Trump.

Abe is reportedly very excited about his meeting with the president-elect and is eager to establish personal ties with Trump. The US-Japan alliance and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are among the issues that he is keen to discuss. During his election campaign, Trump showed little concern for the US alliances with Japan and South Korea and planned to demand the two allies to pay more for US security guarantees. He also vowed to abolish the TPP. If Trump constructs his country's Asia-Pacific policy as he said during the campaign, Japan will be the biggest loser.

The Abe administration didn't expect Trump's win. Now that the situation is poles apart, Abe has no choice but to curry favor with him. This shows an utmost realistic approach  - that Tokyo is prepared to humble itself if necessary.

Trump shows his flexibility by agreeing to meet with Abe during a busy and chaotic transition time. He may not be able to present his Asia-Pacific strategies as president now. This meeting may serve as an opportunity for him and Abe to soften their grievances. But Trump's Asia-Pacific policies are unlikely to  be as aggressive as Hillary Clinton's. His primary task is to revive the US economy. US alliances in the region are more than enough to safeguard its national security, and Trump needs to be driven by other national interests if he is to strengthen these alliances.

Abe seeks to create tensions between China and the US like those between China and Japan. He tries to endow the US-Japan alliance with an anti-China mission so that Japan can gain more strategic leverage.

But the US has a broader vision toward its ties with China. It is not only about East Asian geopolitics, but also about US dependence on the Chinese economy, bilateral cooperation in global affairs, and the balance of global strategies. As China is the world's second-largest economy and a nuclear power, the US must keep a steady relationship with China.

After the Trump-Abe meeting in New York, Japan may publicize the results and show off to the world how firm the US-Japan alliance is. But the divergence over Asia-Pacific policies between the US and Japan, or even the different opinions between Abe and Trump, will never be papered over. The bigotry in the diplomacy of the Abe administration is to blame for Japan's strategic passivity. Otherwise, a Japanese prime minister would not have felt panic over the leadership change in the US.

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