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Taiwan and Northeast Asia representatives believe Trump's unpredictability their biggest hidden trouble

U.S. experts at a National Committee on American Foreign Policy forum discussed their recent findings

Raymond Burghardt (left) with former premier Su Tseng-chang in 2013

Raymond Burghardt (left) with former premier Su Tseng-chang in 2013 (Wikimedia Commons photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Experts on Asia-Pacific relations from the U.S. indicate many leaders worry Trump’s unpredictability in foreign affairs is their biggest hidden trouble.

The National Committee on American Foreign Policy hosted a discussion forum on Jan. 8 entitled, “What’s the Deal with Northeast Asia?” in which four international relations experts who had recently returned from Asia discussed their political findings.

The veteran specialists had met with officials and scholars in a number of Northeast Asian cities including Beijing, Taipei, Tokyo and Seoul, to talk about cross-Taiwan Strait relations, U.S.-China relations, North Korean nuclear negotiations, and the future of U.S. alliances. They reported that although all officials and experts expressed different viewpoints, each believes President Donald Trump’s erratic foreign policy maneuvers pose a threat to their national security.

Asia Society Policy Institute deputy director and former U.S. East Asian and Pacific Affairs Assistant secretary Daniel Russel was invited to report his findings at the conference, along with Pacific Century Institute chairman and former American Institute in Taiwan chair Raymond Burghardt, and Brookings Institution fellow Evans Revere.

UDN reports Russel explained that while there is no doubt China’s influence is continually increasing, the country’s political and academic leaders are unclear on U.S. strategy in the Asia-Pacific, and may easily misjudge it. The fact the Trump has never participated in an APEC conference, coupled with his frequent Twitter tirades that regularly mention the region, leave many foreign policy representatives unsure of who in the U.S. is devising Asia-Pacific strategy, or who to talk to regarding U.S.-China relations, Russel said.

Some are optimistic that U.S. pressure will lead to accelerated reforms in China however, he added.

Taiwan expert Burghardt said the lack of security many Asian leaders are feeling at the hands of Trump’s projected instability is becoming more and more serious. They believe Trump is indifferent towards human rights; although human rights are at the foundation of democracy, which is the center of a shared ideology between the U.S. and Taiwan, he said.

Many foreign policy experts, particularly in Taiwan, believe Trump is simply using Taiwan as a pawn in a game against China, Burghardt commented.

With regards to last year’s nine-in-one elections, the specialist said the results exemplified a rejection of Tsai Ing-wen’s domestic and foreign policies, which has pleased Beijing, and although it could be a sign of things to come in the 2020 general elections, this is not necessarily a good thing for the KMT.

If the KMT comes to power in 2020, facing Beijing could become increasingly more difficult for Taiwan, he commented, as Beijing will put in more requests and exert more pressure, putting more political matters on the negotiating table and attempting to clarify the One China issue.

Evers said U.S. allies Japan and Korean are also worried about Trump’s foreign policy direction. He mentioned that they believe if the U.S. and North Korea create an agreement, while this may lift the country’s nuclear threat towards the U.S., it still remains towards Korea and Japan.

The expert added that some believe an agreement between the U.S. and North Korea could spell the end of its alliances with Japan and Korea.

U.S. and North Korean officials recently met in Vietnamese capital Hanoi to discuss a second planned summit between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. Kim is currently on an excursion to Beijing to meet with Xi, which commentators are suggesting may be in order to encourage Beijing to exert more pressure on the U.S.

During the initial June 2018 summit, both leaders signed a joint declaration, agreeing to make concerted efforts to establish a peaceful regime on the Korean peninsula and phase out nuclear weapons.