Just because Donald Trump didn’t vomit on the Japanese Prime Minister the way George H. W. Bush did in 1992, didn’t make the President’s 12- day Asia trip a resounding success.
Announcing billion dollar business deals negotiated prior to the trip, still only memoranda of understanding with hard details to follow, doesn’t rise to the level of “incredible achievements.”
Knowing our President’s susceptibility to pomp and flattery, the “Master of the Deal” got rolled by leader after leader. I doubt that Japan, Vietnam and other countries are going to jump at new bilateral trade pacts with the US that will detract from their growing regional relationships, like the Trans Pacific Partnership, from which the US pulled away, ceding Pacific economic leadership to China.
Trump’s set speeches were more reheated campaign bluster and hollow rhetoric than serious programmatic recommendations. I never expected this American President would raise, even slightly, the banner of human rights as did his predecessors. But, stupidly, the Trump Administration’s concept of realpolitik has concluded that military and economic alliances are distinct, instead of being two sides of American national security.
Trump was also played by Putin. He accepted the former KGB leader’s disavowal of meddling in the 2016 election, trashing yet again American intelligence reports that confirmed the meddling and urging softening of sanctions as an inducement to getting Russian cooperation on North Korea and Syria. Sadly, Trump passed up an opportunity to have any serious negotiation with the Russian president.
The President’s lavishing praise on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, with his bloody record of thousands of extrajudicial killings in the guise of solving the drug menace, was downright disgusting.
His expectation that China could or would wave its magic wand to solve the North Korean nuclear problem is arrant magical thinking, demonstrating a wanton ignorance of Chinese reality.
Trump’s only clear success was supplicating Chinese President Xi Jinping to release three UCLA basketball players from punishment for their shoplifting spree and then complaining about the black students’ lack of effusive thanks for his intercession.
Regrettably, this trip may be a historic inflection point in Chinese- American relations, remembered for the United States retreat from strategically wise engagement and its turning over the baton of world leadership.