Philippines, Japan move for stronger security ties in face of rising China threat

WASHINGTON/TOKYO/SEOUL: Donald Trump’s allies are assuring Japanese and South Korean officials that the Republican presidential nominee will support Biden-era efforts to deepen trilateral ties aimed at countering China and North Korea, the five people familiar with conversations. .
In conversations over the past few weeks, Trump’s political advisers have conveyed this message to officials in Seoul and Tokyo: If Trump is re-elected, the former US president will support the two capitals’ efforts to warm once-fraught relations and strengthen military ties. aims to advance. , economic and diplomatic cooperation to ease global tensions, the people said.
The conversations were described to Reuters by Republicans and officials from individual Asian countries, several of whom were directly involved.
The previously unannounced push is part of an effort by Trump’s allies to convince Washington’s closest friends in Asia that its heavy-handed approach to traditional alliances ends on the shores of the Indo-Pacific.
Taiwan and the South China Sea, China’s new partnership with Russia, and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s courtship of North Korea are where the United States should look.
“I reassured them that the alliance will be strong and that Trump recognizes that we must work closely with our allies to protect their interests,” said Fred Fleitz, Trump’s former National Security Council chief of staff, who traveled to Japan and met with officials. there, including National Security Adviser Takeo Akiba this month.
Those conversations have added weight after Biden’s disastrous debate performance on Thursday, which could sway undecided voters toward Trump and fueled calls for him to step aside in the 2024 race.
Trump’s allies have floated other foreign policy plans if he wins in November, including a Ukraine peace plan and a plan to overhaul NATO funding. The assurances given to Japan and South Korea go further because they include direct negotiations with foreign officials. In May, Trump’s former foreign policy officials met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Trump’s campaign has not confirmed whether it will accept those proposals.
“No one has the authority to speak to a foreign government and make promises on behalf of President Donald Trump,” Chris LaCivita, a senior Trump campaign adviser, said when asked about the assurances. The politics section of the Trump campaign website does not address the issue.
Fleitz said he was not speaking for Trump, but based his assessment on his experience with the candidate. He said the United States, Japan and South Korea are likely to work together to fight China and North Korea under another Trump term.
Dozens of meetings have been held or planned at the highest levels of the Japanese and South Korean governments with right-wing think tanks such as the America First Policy Institute, the Heritage Foundation and the Hudson Institute, which are known to be plotting Trump’s policies. According to sources, 2025.
One Asian official briefed on recent regional meetings with Trump allies said their governments are taking the meetings seriously and believe they are an acceptable reflection of Trump’s position.

Trump’s second term plans
The conversations show that Trump’s allies have made a serious, early effort to outline policy priorities for Trump’s second presidency months before the 2024 U.S. election, in which Trump leads in battleground states that could decide the race.
Trump’s 2016 election victory took countries by surprise, and he scrambled to understand the new president’s views as he hurriedly assembled White House advisers.
The consortium of conservative think tanks known as “Project 2025,” which is drawing up detailed plans for Trump’s second presidency, describes South Korea and Japan as “critical allies” in its playbook for the military, economy, diplomacy and technology.
But the playbook also calls for South Korea to “take the lead in its conventional defense against North Korea,” reflecting Trump’s concern about taking on too much financial responsibility for the security of other countries. Project 2025 said it does not speak for the Trump campaign.

With the support of Bidenn
Still, the Republican outreach to Asia represents a narrow area of ​​potential continuity between Trump and Biden.
The US Democratic president took over from Trump in 2021 after a bitter election campaign and has made it a priority to uplift traditional alliances that Trump has sometimes disdained.
Biden encouraged South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida to work together and overcome decades of mutual suspicion and hostility.
The effort culminated in the leaders’ Camp David summit last summer, which pledged new defense cooperation amid North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s nuclear threats and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s sovereignty claims over democratically-governed Taiwan.
“My view, and President Trump’s, is that the deeper we can deepen the economic ties between the three countries, the stronger the ties will be,” said Sen. Bill Hagerty of Tennessee, who served as the Trump administration’s ambassador to Japan. he remains in touch with Asian governments and is seen by some in those circles as a likely second-term appointee for Trump.
Another former Trump official dismissed the talks as partly a campaign tactic, adding that “the main charge against the Democrats is that he abandoned his friends and allies and went it alone. Now he is more careful not to give the Democrats new space to attack.”

Welcome sign
In Seoul and Tokyo, where officials are weighing Trump’s possible return, messages of solidarity from Republicans were welcomed as a welcome sign that Trump’s Asia policy may depart from the hardline approach that rankled allies from Ottawa to Brussels.
While polls show Biden and Trump in a tight race, Yoon and Kishida face wilting domestic polls, raising questions about whether the spirit of Camp David can withstand a change in leadership in any of the three countries.
South Korea’s foreign ministry said in a statement that it was “not only necessary but natural” for the three countries to work together, and the effort has won bipartisan support in the United States, including under the previous administration.
“Japan is following the American presidential election with interest, but is not in a position to make an individual statement about the elections taking place in third countries,” the country’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding that the alliance enjoys bipartisan support.
Spokesmen for the Biden campaign and the White House did not respond to requests for comment.
“I don’t see any reason why the trilateral cooperation should go away at all,” said Alexander Gray, former White House National Security Council chief of staff under Trump and now CEO of American Global Strategies, a Washington think tank. “There’s a general concern, which I think is unfounded, that President Trump is going to abandon things that Joe Biden started and abandon them simply because Joe Biden was involved in them.”

Leave a Comment