February 21, 2017

A Tale of Two Allies: Why Japan and Australia See Two Different Trumps

By Mira Rapp-Hooper

The first few chaotic weeks of the Trump administration have brought divergent fortunes for America’s closest allies in the Asia-Pacific. Japan, which Trump consistently maligned during the 2016 campaign, has rushed to embrace the new president. Australia avoided his crosshairs on the trail, but was surprised by a jarring phone call between the new president and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, and has become increasingly skeptical of him since the inauguration. It is no surprise that the Trump presidency should cause a stir in allied capitals. His longstanding antipathy for U.S. partners has been well-documented, after all. But these early experiences show that Trump’s iconoclastic proclivities and erratic temperament could engender allied responses far more complex than the well-known alliance dilemmas of entrapment and abandonment. As allies calculate how Trump’s transactional, protectionist, and neo-Jacksonian foreign policy will affect their security, economy, and domestic politics, they must evaluate how he poses risks to them in each of these domains and devise their engagement strategies accordingly.

While campaigning, Trump made no secret of his disdain for Japan. He repeatedly criticized Tokyo’s financial contributions to its own security, arguing that if Japan did not pay up the United States should begin to withdraw troops, even if that inspired Japan to seek nuclear weapons. On multiple occasions, including since the inauguration, he called Japan a currency manipulator and criticized its trade practices. And he demonstrated almost no interest in Japan’s most pressing security concerns — North Korea, the East China Sea, and the South China Sea. For his own part, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe placed his confidence in a Hillary Clinton presidency, meeting with the Democratic candidate in September —  an atypical pre-election move for the Japanese.

Yet upon Trump’s surprise win, Abe was on his doorstep. On November 18, he visited the president-elect in Trump Tower on his way to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, seeking to curry the new leader’s favor with a gold-plated golf club. Japan sought and received an early visit from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. During this trip, the Abe government was delighted to receive a reaffirmation of past U.S. declaratory policy that Article V of the U.S.-Japan defense treaty would apply to the Senkaku Islands. 

Read the full article at War on the Rocks.

  • Commentary
    • Foreign Affairs
    • November 18, 2022
    Taking on China and Russia

    Today Washington has chosen, perhaps by default, to compete with—and if necessary, confront—both Russia and China simultaneously and indefinitely....

    By Richard Fontaine

  • Podcast
    • November 13, 2022
    U.S. May Seek to Stabilize Relationship with China at Crucial Meeting

    ABC NewsRadio's Thomas Oriti spoke to Jacob Stokes, Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security on U.S.-China Relations, as P...

    By Jacob Stokes

  • Podcast
    • November 1, 2022
    China with Jacob Stokes

    The Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress is in the rearview mirror but what lessons can we take from it about the future of China’s domestic and foreign policy. Grant and Z...

    By Jacob Stokes

  • Commentary
    • National Interest
    • October 27, 2022
    Xi Jinping: An Echo of Saddam?

    Xi Jinping’s consolidation of power at the recent Communist Party congress in Beijing was accomplished with a Shakespearean twist. Xi’s predecessor as president, Hu Jintao, se...

    By Robert D. Kaplan

View All Reports View All Articles & Multimedia