- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Donald Trump has made some out-of-the-mainstream comments about American foreign policy, and US allies have noticed.
After a week in which world leaders gathered at the G-7 summit in Japan, America’s allies in Asia might feel particularly uneasy.
Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, has said he is open to talking to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, insisted that countries like South Korea and Japan need to pay the US for security, and suggested that South Korea and Japan should obtain nuclear weapons to manage threats from North Korea and China.
“South Koreans have not been able to figure out what Donald Trump really intends to do regarding South Korea, but he’s issued a number of statements,” David Straub, the associate director of the Korea Program at Stanford University, told Business Insider.
All the statements made about the Korean Peninsula have deeply concerned the people and I think the government of South Korea because they make no sense to South Koreans. They don’t fit into the context of any known American analysis of the situation on the Korean Peninsula or any existing American policy concept toward the Korean Peninsula.
Straub characterized South Koreans as “totally confused” and “deeply concerned” about Trump’s recent statements, explaining that the South Korean news media had been reporting “fairly extensively” on Trump.
“Donald Trump’s emergence as the presumptive Republican nominee has a lot of people throughout the world very concerned that the American people are not very smart and that our political system is about to collapse,” Straub said, adding that many South Koreans regarded Trump’s comments as “indicating some fundamental American weakness.”
Geopolitical expert Ian Bremmer told Business Insider that while much of what Trump says is “completely impractical,” it fits comfortably in his wheelhouse as a tough dealmaker. But Bremmer agreed that it was unsettling to US allies.
“The South Koreans are now competing with the Mexicans over who is more freaked out over a potential Trump presidency,” Bremmer, the president of the political-risk firm Eurasia Group, said in an email.
And while Trump’s policies on Asia could work to his advantage, Bremmer said “what’s much more likely is that American allies of all stripes will get unnerved and hedge their policies away from the Americans.” This could then weaken American alliances and other international institutions.
Straub predicted that if Trump were in charge of diplomacy, South Korea could pivot to China as leaders there lose faith in the US.
“Every time you have something like the Wall Street financial crisis or a political campaign such as we have now, it tends to make South Koreans think they should be more on the side of the Chinese,” Straub said.
- REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
South Korea isn’t alone in its concerns about Trump.
The New York Times reported last month that world leaders gathered at the G-7 summit in Japan asked President Barack Obama anxious questions about the chances of Trump winning the presidency.
The Times reported:
Mr. Obama’s Japanese hosts are particularly alarmed at the prospect of a Trump presidency because the real estate developer has been bashing Japan for decades. Mr. Trump’s criticisms have a distinctly 1980s flavor, when Japanese cars were flooding American markets and Japanese businesses were buying premier American properties like Rockefeller Center in New York.
Top Japanese officials visiting Washington, D.C., recently have expressed “anxieties” about Trump’s recent remarks on foreign policy, according to The Times.
And Reuters reported earlier this year that foreign diplomats were “expressing alarm” to US officials about what they perceive as xenophobic statements from Trump.
One official told Reuters that “as the [Trump] rhetoric has continued, and in some cases amped up, so, too, have concerns by certain leaders around the world.”
India, South Korea, Japan, and Mexico are on the list of countries whose diplomats have complained about Trump, officials told Reuters. These officials also noted that it was highly unusual for foreign diplomats to weigh in on candidates during a presidential election.
And it’s not just Asian officials who are concerned. Trump has said NATO is “obsolete,” worrying America’s allies in Europe.
“European diplomats are constantly asking about Trump’s rise with disbelief and, now, growing panic,” a senior NATO official told Reuters.
The official added: “With the EU facing an existential crisis, there’s more than the usual anxiety about the US turning inward when Europe needs US support more than ever.”
Even North Korea has taken note of South Korea’s reaction to Trump’s pronouncements.
The Hermit Kingdom’s state media reported recently that Trump’s comments have created a “Trump Shock” in the South Korean capital of Seoul, according to the Associated Press. The outlet, DPRK Today, also praised Trump as a “wise politician and presidential candidate with foresight.”