The exact contours of the incoming Trump administration’s Asia policy and its implications for U.S.-Japan relations are still uncertain. During the campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump displayed a more transactional view toward alliances and skepticism toward economic multilateralism, hinting at a marked departure from bipartisan parameters of U.S. policy toward East Asia. A redefinition of U.S. Asia policy will bring adjustments in U.S.-Japan relations, which must also take into account China’s growing economic and geopolitical influence, the intensification of the North Korean nuclear threat amidst South Korea’s domestic political crisis, and evolving territorial issues in the region.
On December 14, the Center for East Asia Policy Studies will host a panel of Japan and East Asia policy experts for a discussion on priority areas for U.S.-Japan relations in the next administration. Panelists will address not only the future of the alliance and the economic agenda after the announced U.S. withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership but also the larger set of regional issues both allies face regarding China policy, nuclear proliferation, and Russo-Japanese relations.
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I think probably that the lesson that [Kim Jong Un is] learning is that he doesn’t have to give up anything and yet people will be scrambling for summits with him. ... The longer we have these drawn-out talks, these summits, bilaterals, trilaterals, quadrilaterals, the more it buys time for them to reinforce their claimed status [as a nuclear power] but also to continue with their R&D. But I do think that there is an element of trying to mitigate the sanctions, and also Kim took all those discussions about military strikes seriously enough to try and take the wind out of the sails. ... I find it difficult to envision how or why he would give up his nuclear weapons, which have pretty much given him what he’s wanted: which is the strategic relevance, the international prestige, and deterrence.
[Regarding President Trump's shift from enthusiasm to uncertainty over the U.S.-North Korea summit] In effect, President Trump is getting a mini-lesson in talking to the North Koreans even before he talks to the North Koreans.