Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Report Warns of Asia Arms Race if Trump Withdraws US Forces |

Report Warns of Asia Arms Race if Trump Withdraws US Forces | The U.S. approach to Asia faces a major overhaul when Donald Trump takes office, but what will take its place? A new report warns of a leadership vacuum and even a nuclear arms race if the U.S. withdraws from a region threatened by a provocative North Korea.

But authors of the Asia Foundation report provided to The Associated Press ahead of its publication Tuesday also say in some parts of the region there's hope that a shift from President Barack Obama's signature foreign policy could be for the good.

Despite the major diplomatic capital invested by Obama in reaching out to Asia in the past eight years, his so-called "pivot" policy has yielded only modest gains in countering the rise of an assertive China. There's been a slight increase in the U.S. military presence in the region; a political opening in former pariah state Myanmar; and better relations with old enemy Vietnam.

The main economic plank of his policy — the Trans-Pacific Partnership — is in ruins. Trump's election victory has erased chances of early U.S. ratification of the 12-nation trade pact.

Determining what else of Trump's populist campaign rhetoric translates into action remains a guessing game — one with high stakes for Asia.

Trump has raised the specter of withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea and Japan unless they share more of the burden of hosting the 80,000 troops — even as neighboring North Korea has conducted nuclear and missile tests with unprecedented intensity.

The Asia Foundation report, based on consultations among academics and former officials from 20 Asian nations, warns that withdrawing U.S. forces could compel Tokyo and Seoul to seek their own nuclear deterrents — rather than rely on America's — which in turn would "trigger massive destabilization of the regional order."