Trump’s Asian pivot?

 03 Nov 2017 - 14:27

The Peninsula

American President Donald Trump starts his vaunted five-nation Asia tour today amid developments in the region calling for attention of the most powerful nation on earth. The US President who has been commenting extensively after a terror attack linked to the Islamic State in New York City has been told to be discreet with his tweets during his tour of China, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, and Vietnam.

Trump will also attend the Association of Southeast  Asian Nations (Asean) summit in Philippines that brings together ten members of the regional bloc often at odds with China over South China Sea territorial disputes. The US President who is known to shoot from the hip when it comes to ties with Pyongyang will not visit the demilitarised zone between South Korea and North Korea as tensions are at their peak on the Peninsula. Trump is going to the region as the Chinese Communist Party recently  completed its 19th Congress reappointing Xi Jinping as the President of the second largest economy in the world. Washington’s ties with Beijing are crucial for development of trade between the two largest economies.

Deployment of the Terminal High Area Altitude Defence (Thaad) by the US in South Korea has been a point of contention between Beijing and Seoul. South Korea and China on Tuesday agreed to move beyond a year-long stand-off over the deployment of a Thaad, a dispute that has hurt South Korean businesses that rely on Chinese consumers. The North Korean nuclear crisis is set to take centre stage during Trump’s visit. The installation of Thaad had angered China, with South Korea’s tourism, cosmetics and entertainment business taking the hit of a Chinese backlash. Beijing worries the Thaad system’s powerful radar can penetrate into Chinese territory.

“Both sides shared the view that the strengthening of exchange and cooperation between Korea and China serves their common interests and agreed to expeditiously bring exchange and cooperation in all areas back on a normal development track,” South Korea’s Foreign ministry said in a statement. Before the Thaad dispute, bilateral relations flourished, despite Beijing’s historic alliance with North Korea and Seoul’s close ties with Washington.

As part of the deal, South Korean President Moon Jae-in will meet Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in Vietnam on November 10 and 11. Seoul took into account China’s concerns over the missile defence system and clarified the deployment was not aimed at any third country.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has sent a message to North Korean leader Kim Jong un out of politeness. The message came in response to Kim’s congratulatory note on Xi being re-elected president for a second term. Considering that Trump is starting his visit at this time, Washington will have a lot to think and deliberate upon.