New wine into old wineskins

Tuesday, 2017-03-21 17:56:48
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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) during their meeting in Beijing on March 19, 2017. (Photo: Xinhua)
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NDO – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recently wrapped up his official trip to three Northeast Asian countries, including China and the US’s two key allies, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and Japan. The visit aimed to redefine Washington policy in the strategic region under President Donald Trump.

Just two months after his inauguration, President Donald Trump’s administration has abolished a number of policies adopted by predecessor President Obama during his eight years in office, including the 'pivot' or 'rebalance' to the Asia-Pacific region. Consequently, public opinion has been focused on the 45th US President’s new policy of the US in the region, particularly after tensions have been felt in the relations between the US with the three Northeast Asian countries over the past time.

In this context, the outcomes of the US Secretary of State’s first official trip abroad have pointed out major guidelines in the relations between the US with its allies of Japan and the ROK, as well as with China under President Trump’s administration. Ultimately, the US has confirmed that it will continue to work closely with the two allies while moving to quickly establish good lines of communication and pursuing a constructive and results-oriented relationship with China, one that benefits the two peoples as well as the world in general.

The move has made observers believe that Washington has not yet developed an entirely new policy and strategy for the region, but simply just made certain adjustments which could be considered as a "new wine into old wineskins" solution.

In his presidential campaign, President Trump announced that once in office, he would reset the US security policy in Asia, suggesting Japan and RoK to increase their financial contributions in order to continue benefiting from the Washington security umbrella. However, during meetings with Japanese and RoK leaders, US Secretary Tillerson did not mention the request, but stressed the importance of cooperation with the two Asian allies instead. He affirmed that Tokyo and Seoul are two key allies of the US in Asia and that Washington will continue to work closely with the two countries in the coming time.

In China, the two sides were said to hold frank and substantive discussions on a wide range of topics, stressing the importance of the US – China relations, agreeing to increase high-level exchanges and dialogue in diplomatic security, macroeconomic policy coordination, law enforcement, cyberspace and people-to-people exchanges. The two sides agree to respect each other's core interests and major concerns, discreetly deal with sensitive issues to protect bilateral ties from unnecessary influences, have closer cooperation and coordination in response to regional and international pressing issues as well as make further contributions to maintaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region and the world at large. Acknowledging differences in addressing existing issues in bilateral ties, the two sides expressed their hope to resolve the issues through peaceful measures. Both the US and China are finalizing details for the first summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump. Chinese President Xi Jinping said that leaders of the two countries expect a new stage of constructive development in bilateral relations. In reply, Secretary Tillerson said that President Trump looks forward to enhancing understanding with China.

In addition to redefining US policy towards the three Northeast Asian countries, the US Secretary of State’s visit also conveyed a message in relation to US policy on the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). Accordingly, Secretary Tillerson said that 20 years of US making efforts to bring the DPRK to a point of denuclearization have failed, calling for a new approach to Pyongyang regarding diplomacy, security, economics and military operations. Washington and Beijing renewed their determination to work together to convince Pyongyang to suspend its nuclear and missile programmes.

According to observers, more time is needed to examine the new policies and strategies of President Trump’s administration in Northeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region in general. Despite many difficulties and obstacles as well as longstanding disagreements which need to be resolved, according to US Secretary Tillerson, the new US administration will continue its positive participation in Asia, a region of strategic importance to the US prosperity and development.