06 Nov 2017 - 11:01
A sporty Donald Trump yesterday played golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, a game both players understood was not as complicated as the strained geopolitics of the region. As the US President embarked on his Asia tour, the world’s eyes were fixated on how the four large economies — China, Japan, South Korea and America would come together to solve the North Korean crisis that threatens stability in the region.
Japan and South Korea are close US allies and North Korean leader Kim Jong un’s shenanigans to portray his flailing country as a nuclear power are under threat of being stonewalled by Tokyo and Seoul with help from Washington. Trump is visiting the region just weeks after Kim had threatened a missile strike on the US Pacific territory of Guam. It was then Trump’s bluster that was more in the spotlight than the threat.
Told to rein in his bellicose instincts and his wayward tweets, Trump sounded more restrained yesterday. He told a television channel that he was open to meeting North Korean leader if it helped solve the crisis.
North Korea’s ruling party newspaper Rodong Sinmun welcomed Trump to the region warning a “spiritually instable” president against making “reckless remarks.”
South Korea, one of the staunchest US allies, has thousands of troops stationed on its soil. The United States Forces Korea (USFK) have an important role to play in buttressing the defence of the US ally.
The deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defence anti-missile system in South Korea has been a sticking point between US and South Korea on one side and China and Russia on the other. China, which wrapped up the 19th Communist Party of China Congress recently, has emerged as a more consolidated power in the region after the re-election of Xi as the President. Like legendary Leftist figure Mao Zedong, Xi’s name has been enshrined in the Party constitution and Socialism with Chinese characteristics is the buzzword in the second largest economy.
The North Korean nuclear crisis and the South China Sea standoff are the major issues in the region affecting ties among nations. Thaad, which has to do with protecting South Korea from Pyongyang’s missiles, worries Beijing that says the missile defence system’s radar penetrates its territory.
After landing in Japan, Trump was at his jovial best. He played golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and praised the golfing skills of Hideki Matsuyama, one of the world’s top golfers, who gave the leaders company.
A Summit with Abe and the Asean and Apec meets in Philippines and Vietnam wait for Trump. After a good start to the tour, Trump is expected to show his more serious side in the crucial summits that may define US agenda for Asia in the years to come.