Contact Me By Email

Contact Me By Email

Friday, May 31, 2024

After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

After Trump’s Conviction, a Wary World Waits for the Fallout

Already braced for uncertainty about the U.S. election, Asia-Pacific countries are now even more unclear about the future of American diplomacy.

Mr. Trump, in a dark blue suit and bright blue tie, walks past metal police barricades with a group of other men.
Donald J. Trump in New York after his conviction on Thursday.Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

“The world does not vote in American presidential elections. Nor do its jurors play a part in the American judicial system. Nevertheless, the conviction of Donald J. Trump on all 34 felony counts in a hush-money trial in a New York court on Thursday has again made clear how consequential what happens in the United States is for the rest of the planet.

Many America-watchers are grappling with the same questions posed by people in the United States: Can Mr. Trump still run for president? (Yes.) And if so, will the guilty verdicts cut into the support from his political base? (Unclear.)

Foreign observers also began wondering whether Mr. Trump, already a volatile force, would become even less likely to stay within the guardrails of normal politics if he won the presidency again in November.

“As a non-American, as a Thai, I can say this trial of a former American president has been dramatic theater, a curious spectacle,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, the director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

“But we also understand that we may be facing another Trump presidency in which he shakes up the regional security balance, threatens a trade war with China, pledges to impose tariffs on a wide range of goods and generally acts in a very stormy and belligerent way,” Mr. Thitinan added.

The convictions by a Manhattan jury come as the question of American engagement has become central in several global crises.

In Ukraine, the war effort against Russia has been stymied after Republicans in Congress delayed American military aid.

In Europe, leaders reliant on the United States for their defense are worried about a return to a more acrimonious relationship with Washington and a withdrawal of American support for hardening defenses against Russia.

In Asia, where the Biden administration perceives a growing Chinese threat and worries about a possible invasion of Taiwan, American allies are concerned about the sanctity of defense treaties that have long girded the regional security order.

And around the world, human rights activists fear that Mr. Trump’s diatribes against democracy, such as his baseless contention that his 2020 election loss was rigged, are emboldening autocrats and legitimizing repression.

Foreign analysts worry that Mr. Trump’s favored currency, unpredictability, could shake up the global order.

Still, on Friday, most foreign governments, forced to surf with every shift in the American political mood, reacted cautiously to the Trump verdict.

“I would like to refrain from commenting on matters related to judicial procedures in other countries,” Yoshimasa Hayashi, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, said at a news conference in Tokyo on Friday.

Japan takes the same position on any American presidential contest, said Ichiro Fujisaki, a former Japanese ambassador to Washington.

“It’s this Christmas thing,” Mr. Fujisaki said. “Don’t say anything until the day, and on the day, you open the box and say, ‘This is what I always wanted!’”

When Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan made a state visit to Washington in April, President Biden called relations between the two countries the most important bilateral alliance in the world. With American concern rising over China’s expanding military footprint, Mr. Biden has strengthened American defense partnerships with Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and others in Asia.

By contrast, while president, Mr. Trump called for Japan, which hosts more than 50,000 American troops on its soil, to pay $8 billion for the upkeep of American bases there. (It never happened.)

Still, the fundamental tension in regional geopolitics — the contest between the United States and China — will continue no matter who wins the American presidential election.

“Beijing has no illusion about Trump or Biden, given their anti-China solid stance,” said Lau Siu-kai, an adviser to the Chinese government on Hong Kong policy. “Beijing is all set for a more intense confrontation with the U.S. over technology, trade and Taiwan.”

There is a sense in Asia that it is perennially overlooked and underappreciated by U.S. presidents, particularly as crises in Europe and the Middle East have monopolized Mr. Biden’s attention. That sentiment was also felt acutely during Mr. Trump’s presidency, and for American partners in Asia it was made worse by his affinity for regional strongmen.

In addition to an evident admiration for President Vladimir V. Putin and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, Mr. Trump invited to the White House a former army chief who led a coup in Thailand and installed himself as prime minister. Mr. Trump drew accolades from Rodrigo Duterte, formerly the president of the Philippines and now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for his deadly war on drugs.

The Philippines is now led by the son of the longtime dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, who died in exile in Hawaii. Mr. Duterte drew the country closer to China during his six years in office, but Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the current president, has reoriented the country back toward the United States, permitting American bases to be built on Philippine territory to counter China. Mr. Marcos has stood up more forcefully to Beijing in the South China Sea, where the Chinese military has built bases in what an international tribunal has deemed are Philippine waters.

“Given how the Trump administration failed to pay enough attention to building partnerships with like-minded states in Asia,” said Aries A. Arugay, the chair of the political science department at the University of the Philippines Diliman, “a second Trump presidency will endanger the momentum achieved by the revitalized United States-Philippine relations.”

But Bilahari Kausikan, a former top diplomat from Singapore, cautioned against equating American values with Asian ones.

“We structure our relationship with the U.S. much more on the basis of common interests rather than common values,” he said. “And the people who are very upset over the prospect of Trump, whether in Europe or in the U.S., or people who feel that he doesn’t share their values, we don’t share the values in the first place, not all of them anyway.”

The verdict against Mr. Trump came as India was wrapping up its 44-day election season. Manoj Jha, an opposition politician, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India, who is running for a third term, has employed some of the same tactics as Mr. Trump by “demonizing a section of his own population.”

“They thrive on fear,” Mr. Jha said.

In at least one regard — the prosecution of former leaders — the rest of the world is far ahead of the United States. South Korea, where four ex-presidents have been convicted of corruption and abuse of power, has made something of a national sport of imprisoning disgraced leaders. Former French presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac were convicted of corruption.

Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, has been charged with money laundering, among other crimes. And Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was sentenced to years in prison for corruption after leading Brazil. His convictions were eventually annulled. He is again president of the country.

Camille Elemia, Choe Sang-Hun, Motoko Rich, Alexandra Stevenson, Sui-Lee Wee and Sameer Yasir contributed reporting.“

No comments:

Post a Comment