What is the Aim of Trump’s Highly Suspicious Visit to South Asia?

The last time when a US president in office spent much more time on an Asia tour than Donald Trump has done was George H. W. Bush’s visit in the early 1990s. US President Donald Trump’s 13-day tour on South Asia countries has made a start on Japan and continued with South Korea on 7-8 November. It’s also expected that Trump will pay visit to China on November 8-9, Vietnam on November 10-12 and the Philippines on November 12-13. Besides, Trump will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Danang (Vietnam) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Manila (Philippines). President’s major focus or a primarily concern is undoubtedly to cope with North Korea’s inexpugnable nuclear ambitions. Further, Trump tries to obviate China and consolidate its “primacy” across the region by showing Southeast Asian leaders that former US President Barack Obama’s administration’s “Asia’s pivot” strategy has not been totally abandoned.

However, The US shows meticulous approach in order not to give an indication that they accede to the anti-democratic moves by meeting some Southeast Asia’s leaders. It can be also noted that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has stressed during a visit to India that they are seeking to promote a “free and open” region led by prosperous democracies.[1] US has also given high importance on the axis of Australia, Japan and South Korea to constitute an interdependency and mutual understanding of confronting threat in the region. South China Sea, in this sense, generating highly concern for the regional states. For instance, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Vietnam claim sovereignty over some islands and rocks in the controversial South China Sea. Besides, Indonesia has some disputes over piscaries. However, the US has no claims in the Sea, but pressured ASEAN countries to speak with a single voice against China. In other words, US serves as chief antagonist, urging states to seek and expand confrontation with Beijing.[2]

The lunatic fringes, radical thoughts, separatist terrorism and eventually combatant assumed to be linked to the Islamic State have strengthened its positions in Southeast Asia, assaulting not only Philippines, but also Malaysia and Indonesia. These are portrayed, somehow, as a part of US’s grand “pushing and pulling” strategy aimed at ravaging and then obliging them to beg for American help. This is all to say, making havoc with South Asia is deem as a gateway for tug-of-war between China-US. Once for all, the two-hegemonic giant’s geopolitical vision squashed into south corner of Sino-American zone. According to some academician’s standpoint, if the radical thoughts and terrorism instantly come to light in a regional power struggle, these extremist armed groups are deliberately incited by the US and are financially supported by its closest Middle Eastern allies, Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Thus, it stands for a base for the idea that rising Islamic State threat in South Asia is seen as the calm before the storm or a sounds of war drums in new regional power struggle.

Regional states have to endure dual coercion of Washington and Beijing. The former tries to overthrow governments opposed to its interests in Asia Pacific and entrenched puppet states instead which getting on the bandwagon of the US. On the hand, the latter’s militarization of South China Sea and economic dominance engulfing ASEAN pivot constitutes high pressure over the regional countries. What is worse, If Beijing accedes to Trump’s confronting strategy toward North Korea, the US could turn a blind eye to Beijing’s aggression in the South China Sea.[3] Honestly, it is not going to be happen so. In that, Washington gives pretty much importance on maritime security and opposes any unilateral coercive changes to the status quo. For instance, US Defense Secretary James Mattis said “Our operations throughout the region are an expression of our willingness to defend both our interests and the freedoms enshrined in international law.”[4] Another point is that President’s senior advisor and son-in-law Jared Kushner is playing an essential role in the Sino-American relationship. He is well-known with Trump’s covert policy toward Saudi Arabia and accused of pulling a tricky on Saudis. Hereof, Iran FM said on Twitter account that “Visits to Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have proved hazardous to regional health” referring to Kushner and Trump’s visits to that country. The top Iranian diplomat continued that “Trump visit led to Bahrain repression followed by Qatar debacle.”[5] That Kushner’s meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on his recent unannounced (secret) trip to the country and subsequently the wave of arrests has broken out became under the spotlight on global agenda.

In short, Trump administration has launched a new containment strategy depending on geopolitical coercion from Middle East onward South Asia and favouring subversive plots to escalate tension. It is another way of maintaining US hegemony. When closer cooperation is refused by the South Asia countries, terrorism predictably spikes. Under any circumstances, there is no way out for regional countries but to resist or endure their fates. Terrorism has continued to spread and shadow the world trips of the US’s officials from West to the East. It’s not the first and is not going to be the last (scene of the war). However, the US could be the last station in this phenomenon sooner or later. Can we say this “irony of fate?” Why not!

[1] “Tillerson In India After Visits To Pakistan, Afghanistan”, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, https://www.rferl.org/a/tillerson-visit-india-pakistan-afghanistan/28814873.html, (Access Date: 07.11.2017).

[2]  “Trump’s ASEAN Policy Isn’t ‘Confused,’ It’s a Continuation of Decades of Coercion”, Global Research, https://www.globalresearch.ca/trumps-asean-policy-isnt-confused-its-a-continuation-of-decades-of-coercion/5599430, (Access Date: 07.11.2017).

[3] “Will Trump Take a Stand on Southeast Asia?”, Asia Times, http://www.atimes.com/article/will-trump-take-stand-southeast-asia/, (Access Date: 07.11.2017).

[4] “Mattis on U.S.-China Relationship”, Voice of America, https://editorials.voa.gov/a/mattis-us-china-relationship/3900710.html, (Access Date: 07.11.2017).

[5] @JZarif, “Visits to the belligerent #KSA have proved hazardous to regional health. Trump visit led to Bahrain repression followed by Qatar debacle.”, Twitter, 6 Kasım 2017, https://twitter.com/JZarif/status/927543275506069507.

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