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Japan Diary

April 21, 2018

Chances and risks of the extreme foreign policy by the stormy president

ーA Japanese viewー

President Trump's extreme foreign policy prevails in the world like the extreme weather, breaking all customary niceties in protocol; he wantonly hit Syria by more than one hundred cruising missiles and boldly announced his intention to dramatically raise tariffs against Chinese goods.

So far the reactions from Russia and China are muted, testifying to the tenacity of the American supremacy in global military and economic affairs. The US has meaningful military presence all over the world with coherent and well-connected set of weaponry, and the world trade is mostly done in dollar. Any entity, if prohibited to use American banking facilities, will have difficulty in conducting foreign trade, as was the case with the Russian aluminum giant RUSAL.

President Trump, against the background of this strength, is poised to embark upon a new deal of the post-war world economic and political system, which will allow the US to shore up its staggering hegemony. And he spares nothing on his way; even the allies are used as pawn in his transactions with China and Russia (and of course for his own re-election). Germans and Japanese are urged to curtail their trade surplus with a hint that otherwise the US would not be able to afford keeping her military presence in these countries. Taiwan gets spasmodic supports from the US, whenever the latter wants to pressure China.

So far Trump's audacity has fared well. However, in so far as much his understandings of the world are based on outmoded stereotypes and not the reality, his policies may backfire on him, causing unintended and dangerous game changes. Germany may drain the US gold reserve by demanding her own gold back to Germany. Japan has held a ministerial dialogue with China on the eve of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's visit to the US, implying that the Japan-US alliance is not the only option in her foreign policy. And in the US itself the agricultural sector is complaining to President Trump that staying aloof from the TPP only benefits their rivals like Australia.

This is not the first time when a US president attempted to support the losing grounds by extreme measures. The first example was the "Nixon shock", when he drastically reduced US military presence overseas and decoupled the dollar's value from the gold. The latter was retaliated by the oil crisis. The second example was the "Plaza agreement" in September 1985, after which dollar's value got devalued almost by half. It did not decrease imports from Japan; on the contrary it accelerated the spree of Japanese' purchase of American real estates.

Things in the world are intertwined. Any act may provoke an unexpected reaction from elsewhere. For example, if Trump haphazardly agrees upon conclusion of a peace treaty with North Korea, it will trigger withdrawal of the US troops from South Korea and eventual reunification of the Korean Peninsula, GDP of which will be larger than that of Russia and most probably with nuclear bombs.

Further, if Trump haphazardly reduces commitment to Japan's security, Japan will have to ameliorate her relations with China. Losing the access to facilities in Japan and losing Japan's peer support in Asia, Trump will realize that he inadvertently let loose the most precious booty of the Pacific War, which cost 300 thousand American soldiers' lives.
Japan has been excessively dependent on the US after the war both in security and trade. But the US also tapped Japan's resources; the bases in Japan were the key for deployment of the US troops in Asia and even in the Middle East.

To gain voters' support, to check China's onslaught on the US hegemony and to promote interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia---all respectable objectives are hard to achieve in one strike. I hope that President Trump and his administration will pay due attention in its bold march so as to avoid causing collateral damages to the US financial balance, and the political and economic alignments in the world, which have largely served the US interests.


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