Toward a People-Centered ASEAN Community


November 19, 2017

Toward a People-Centered ASEAN Community

by Moon Jae-in
http://www.project-syndicate.org

In the 50 years since the founding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, almost all of Asia has been utterly transformed. ASEAN’s contributions to harnessing and spreading economic dynamism have been essential to the region’s success.

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ASEAN TIES. South Korean President Moon Jae-in speaks at ASEAN-South Korea 2017 Summit in Manila recently.

SEOUL – I am delighted that my first meeting with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations comes at a historic moment: the 50th anniversary of ASEAN’s founding. During those 50 years, not only my country, the Republic of Korea, but almost all of Asia has been utterly transformed. ASEAN’s role in harnessing and spreading economic dynamism has been essential to the region’s success.

For Korea, ASEAN has undoubtedly been a special and valued friend. Last year alone, some six million Koreans visited ASEAN member states, both as tourists and for business. Approximately 500,000 citizens of ASEAN member states now live and work in Korea, while roughly 300,000 Koreans live and work in ASEAN countries.

This is one example of why Korea’s ties with ASEAN are more than just intergovernmental relations. Our relationship is deepened in the most personal way possible, through the intertwining of so many individuals’ lives.

This fact should not surprise anyone. ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together, which was endorsed by ASEAN leaders at their 27th Summit in November 2015, states that the group strives to be a “people-centered, people-oriented community” that seeks to build a caring and sharing society which is inclusive and where the well-being, livelihood, and welfare of the people are enhanced.

“People first” has been my longstanding political philosophy as well, and it is a vision in line with the spirit of Korea’s “candlelight revolution” that lit and heated up the winter in Korea a year ago. Korea and ASEAN share a common philosophy that values people, and that shared outlook will set the path that Korea and ASEAN take together in the years and decades ahead.

Since 2010, Korea and ASEAN have made significant strides together as strategic partners. Korea-ASEAN cooperation so far, however, has remained focused mainly on government-led collaboration in political, security, and economic affairs. I intend to help advance Korea-ASEAN relations while placing a high priority on the “people” – both Koreans and the people of ASEAN. My vision is to create, in cooperation with ASEAN, a “peace-loving, people-centered community where all members are better off together.” This can be summed up in “three Ps”: People, Prosperity, and Peace.

To realize this vision, I will pursue “people-centered diplomacy.” So, from this point onward, cooperation between Korea and ASEAN will be developed in a way that respects public opinion among all of the peoples of our association, gains their support, and invites their hands-on participation.

To this end, and in commemoration of ASEAN’s 50th anniversary, we have designated this year as “Korea-ASEAN Cultural Exchange Year,” and actively promoted various cultural and people-to-people exchanges. Last September, the ASEAN Culture House (ACH) opened in Korea’s southern port city of Busan. The ACH is the first of its kind to be opened in an ASEAN dialogue partner country, and it is expected to serve as a hub for cultural and people-to-people exchanges between Korea and ASEAN members. The Korean government will spare no effort to expand these exchanges, especially among the young people who will lead Korea-ASEAN relations in the future.

We should also work to build a community of peace where people are safe. In Asia, we all are facing the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missiles, as well as non-traditional security threats, including terrorism, violent extremism, and cyber-attacks on our businesses, our social and civic infrastructure, and our official institutions. The Korean government will strive to ensure that both Koreans and the people of ASEAN are able to lead happy and safe lives, which means cooperating with all ASEAN member states, at both the bilateral and multilateral level, to overcome the security challenges that we jointly face.

Finally, I will endeavor to promote greater mutual prosperity, which benefits citizens of both ASEAN and Korea. To ensure the sustainability of people-centered cooperation, all countries in the region must grow and develop together. Creating a structure for mutual prosperity requires lowering regional and transnational barriers to facilitate the flow of goods and promote people-to-people interactions. In short, ASEAN’s dynamism must now be tied to its inclusiveness.

That is why Korea will actively support the “Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025” and “Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan,” both of which call for enhancing the connectivity between ASEAN economies and citizens. We will also accelerate the pace of negotiations for the further liberalization of a Korea-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA), in order to pave the way for freer and more inclusive growth in the region.

Korea is now preparing for yet another “hot” winter: the PyeongChang Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, to be held in February 2018. Our preparations are focused on ensuring that these Games deliver a message of reconciliation, peace, mutual understanding, and cooperation throughout the world.

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I happily invite you all to discover a peaceful and joyous winter in PyeongChang, and experience the dynamism sweeping through Korea and ASEAN. Don’t miss an opportunity to find out and enjoy what Korea and ASEAN share in common.

Moon Jae-in is President of the Republic of Korea.

Be Prepared–An Assertive China Ahead


November 2, 2017

Be Prepared–An Assertive China Ahead

by  Yu Tao

https://thediplomat.com

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The Assertive Globalist– Chinese President Xi Jinping’s assertive defence of globalisation in his address to world economic and political leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland in early 2017 surprised many. Few expected the Chinese President and head of the Communist Party to attend the spiritual home of global capitalism for the first time, and fewer still to hear such a forthright speech.

The Chinese Communist Party(CCP) concluded its 19th National Congress on October 24, and announced its new leadership on Wednesday morning. Unsurprisingly, this new central leadership team is headed by Xi Jinping, who has been China’s most powerful politician since the CCP’s last National Congress in 2012. After being re-elected as the general secretary of China’s only ruling political party and the chair of its Central Military Commission, Xi will lead the 89 million members of the Chinese Communist Party – and the 1.3 billion citizens of the People’s Republic of China – for the next five years, and possibly beyond.

The Assertive Dragon under Xi Jinging embraces globalisation and win win partnerships

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The America First Eagle under Donald Trump surrenders global leadership and antagonizes the rest of the world.

Xi’s public speeches during and after the Party Congress were not merely a summary of what has been done in the last five years. Instead, through these speeches, Xi not only ambitiously set the tone for the politics of China in the next five years and even beyond, but also confidently declared that China had entered a “new era” under his leadership. One of the major policy shifts that we can expect to see in Xi’s China is that the country will become much more outward-looking in international politics, asserting more proactive roles in major global issues that go beyond the immediate relevance to China’s national and regional interests.

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“Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership.” Deng Xiaoping

For decades, China has been intending to become a “quiet achiever” in the arena of global politics. In the late 1980s, Deng Xiaoping instructed Chinese diplomats to keep a low profile, and this strategy is often translated into English as “hide our capabilities and bide our time.” Back then, the Chinese leadership believed that their priority was developing China’s domestic economy, and they were unwilling to get involved with international politics that had little direct relevance to China.

 

However, as China’s economy grows bigger, China’s weight on the international arena has increased extensively. China has demonstrated that it has the capacity to mobilize its military and economic resources to evacuate its nationals from Libya and Yemen, places that are not traditionally considered as within the reach of China’s sphere of influence. In the first six months of 2017, over 62 million Chinese citizens traveled to other countries as tourists – to illustrate, this figure is larger than the combined total populations of Australia and Canada. Since 2016, China has also been holding second place in the Elcano Global Presence Index, a widely-accepted measure that ranks 100 countries according to their economic performance, military capacity, and soft power.

With China’s influence in the world becoming more obvious, the expectation that China should play a more proactive role in international politics has increased from both within and outside China. The Chinese leadership has also become more confident in their commercial and military capacity over the years.

Since Xi became China’s top leader in 2012, as well as becoming more assertive in defending China’s key interests in regions surrounding the country, China has also started creating a more comfortable international environment for itself through grand global projects such as the “Belt and Road Initiative,” an ambitious plan to link China with Central Asia, the Middle East, Russia, Europe, and Africa through physical infrastructure, financial arrangements, and cultural exchanges.

Judging from Xi’s speech at the Party Congress, it is obvious that the current Chinese leadership is very happy with, and confident in, their way of doing things. As stated in his speech at the opening ceremony, Xi believes that China has “blaz[ed] a new trial for other developing countries to achieve modernization. It offers a new option for other countries and nationals who want to speed up their development while preserving their independence.”

With such a level of confidence and optimism, under Xi’s leadership in the next five years, China will not be shy about – in Xi’s own words – offering “Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind.” China is likely to achieve this by further pushing its flagship international development project, the Belt and Road Initiative, which many observers believe marks China’s push to take a more influential role in international affairs.

China’s transition from a “quiet achiever” to an “assertive player” in the global arena is also likely to be reflected by its changing approach in international communication and soft-power construction. In his Party Congress speech, Xi called his comrades to build “stronger confidence” in the Chinese culture. He also said clearly that China will “enhance its cultural soft power” through presenting “a true, multi-dimensional, and panoramic view of China.” That is to say, China will not be shy about telling its stories to an international audience, and it is determined to tell these stories in effective ways.

Xi made it clear that China will prompt “the building a community with a shared future to mankind,” also known as a “community of common destiny.” This new strategy for China’s foreign policies aims at pursuing “open, innovative, and inclusive development that benefits everyone.” Of course, this does not mean the Chinese Communist Party will compromise on what it considers key national interests. For example, Xi set a strong tone on the Taiwan issue, stating that the CCP has “the resolve, the confidence, and the ability to defeat separatist attempts for ‘Taiwan independence’ in any form.” This part of the speech attracted much applause from the Congress delegates. Indeed, as many China watchers have pointed out, a considerable amount of people in China believe that the Communist Party will lose its legitimacy to rule China if it loses Taiwan.

The message that Xi sent through his speech indicates that the Chinese leadership is ready to look beyond the regions and issues that are immediately related to their country, to move their country “closer to the center stage” of the world, and to lead their country to “make greater contributions to mankind.” By stating that “no country can alone address the many challenges facing mankind and no country can afford to retreat into self-isolation,” Xi also sets a clear, albeit in explicit, contrast to Donald Trump’s isolationism, portraying China as a responsible power that committed itself to major global affairs including peace, development and climate change.

If the blueprints outlined by Xi in the last few days are to be faithfully implemented, the world will be expected to see a fundamental switch in China’s diplomacy and foreign policies in the next few years. Under the leadership of the new Central Committee of the CCP, with Xi at the top, China is likely to transfer itself from a quiet achiever into an outward-looking, proactive, and probably rather assertive player that is not shy about telling the world what it sees as more appropriate and justifiable international order.

China adopted such a strategy once before, under Mao Zedong’s leadership between the 1950s and 1970s, intending to make itself the leader of the “third world” outside United States, the Soviet Union, and their allies. At that time, China offered enormous international aid to its followers and launched extensive propaganda wars, but the world was predominately shaped by the bilateral relations between the two superpowers. However, the game in the global arena has changed fundamentally between then and now. As China already emerged as the world’s Number Two in many aspects, the shift in its style, attitude, and behavior in global affairs is likely to have a profound impact on the international order in the years to come.

Yu Tao is a lecturer in Chinese Studies in the University of Western Australia (UWA), where he teaches contemporary Chinese society and language, and coordinates the Chinese Studies major.

 

China’s Xi Jinping–The World’s Most Powerful Man


October 17, 2017

THE ECONOMIST

China’s Xi Jinping–The World’s Most Powerful Man

Xi Jinping has more clout than Donald Trump. The world should be wary

Do not expect Mr Xi to change China, or the world, for the better

Print edition | Leaders

Oct 14th 2017

One-man rule is ultimately a recipe for instability in China, as it has been in the past—think of Mao and his Cultural Revolution. It is also a recipe for arbitrary behaviour abroad, which is especially worrying at a time when Mr Trump’s America is pulling back and creating a power vacuum. The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both.

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Two Giants of Asia–Xi and Modi–Friends or Foes

AMERICAN Presidents have a habit of describing their Chinese counterparts in terms of awe. A fawning Richard Nixon said to Mao Zedong that the chairman’s writings had “changed the world”. To Jimmy Carter, Deng Xiaoping was a string of flattering adjectives: “smart, tough, intelligent, frank, courageous, personable, self-assured, friendly”. Bill Clinton described China’s then president, Jiang Zemin, as a “visionary” and “a man of extraordinary intellect”. Donald Trump is no less wowed. The Washington Post quotes him as saying that China’s current leader, Xi Jinping, is “probably the most powerful” China has had in a century.

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Mr Trump may be right. And were it not political suicide for an American president to say so, he might plausibly have added: “Xi Jinping is the world’s most powerful leader.” To be sure, China’s economy is still second in size to America’s and its army, though rapidly gaining muscle, pales in comparison. But economic heft and military hardware are not everything. The leader of the free world has a narrow, transactional approach to foreigners and seems unable to enact his agenda at home. The United States is still the world’s most powerful country, but its leader is weaker at home and less effective abroad than any of his recent predecessors, not least because he scorns the values and alliances that underpin American influence.

The President of the world’s largest authoritarian state, by contrast, walks with swagger abroad. His grip on China is tighter than any leader’s since Mao. And whereas Mao’s China was chaotic and miserably poor, Mr Xi’s is a dominant engine of global growth. His clout will soon be on full display. On October 18th China’s ruling Communist Party will convene a five-yearly congress in Beijing (see Briefing). It will be the first one presided over by Mr Xi. Its 2,300 delegates will sing his praises to the skies. More sceptical observers might ask whether Mr Xi will use his extraordinary power for good or ill.

World, take note

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On his numerous foreign tours, Mr Xi presents himself as an apostle of peace and friendship, a voice of reason in a confused and troubled world. Mr Trump’s failings have made this much easier. At Davos in January Mr Xi promised the global elite that he would be a champion of globalisation, free trade and the Paris accord on climate change. Members of his audience were delighted and relieved. At least, they thought, one great power was willing to stand up for what was right, even if Mr Trump (then President-Elect) would not.

Mr Xi’s words are heeded partly because he has the world’s largest stockpile of foreign currency to back them up. His “Belt and Road Initiative” may be puzzlingly named, but its message is clear—hundreds of billions of dollars of Chinese money are to be invested abroad in railways, ports, power stations and other infrastructure that will help vast swathes of the world to prosper. That is the kind of leadership America has not shown since the post-war days of the Marshall Plan in western Europe (which was considerably smaller).

Mr Xi is also projecting what for China is unprecedented military power abroad. This year he opened the country’s first foreign military base, in Djibouti. He has sent the Chinese navy on manoeuvres ever farther afield, including in July on NATO’s doorstep in the Baltic Sea alongside Russia’s fleet. China says it would never invade other countries to impose its will (apart from Taiwan, which it does not consider a country). Its base-building efforts are to support peacekeeping, anti-piracy and humanitarian missions, it says. As for the artificial islands with military-grade runways it is building in the South China Sea, these are purely defensive.

Unlike Vladimir Putin, Russia’s President, Mr Xi is not a global troublemaker who seeks to subvert democracy and destabilise the West. Still, he is too tolerant of troublemaking by his nuke-brandishing ally, North Korea (see Schumpeter). And some of China’s military behaviour alarms its neighbours, not only in South-East Asia but also in India and Japan.

At home, Mr Xi’s instincts are at least as illiberal as those of his Russian counterpart. He believes that even a little political permissiveness could prove not only his own undoing, but that of his regime. The fate of the Soviet Union haunts him, and that insecurity has consequences. He mistrusts not only the enemies his purges have created but also China’s fast-growing, smartphone-wielding middle class, and the shoots of civil society that were sprouting when he took over. He seems determined to tighten control over Chinese society, not least by enhancing the state’s powers of surveillance, and to keep the commanding heights of the economy firmly under the party’s thumb. All this will make China less rich than it should be, and a more stifling place to live. Human-rights abuses have grown worse under Mr Xi, with barely a murmur of complaint from other world leaders.

Liberals once mourned the “ten lost years” of reform under Mr Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao. Those ten years have become 15, and may exceed 20. Some optimists argue that we have not yet seen the real Mr Xi—that the congress will help him consolidate his power, and after that he will begin social and economic reforms in earnest, building on his relative success in curbing corruption. If he is a closet pluralist, however, he disguises it well. And alarmingly for those who believe that all leaders have a sell-by date, Mr Xi is thought to be reluctant to step down in 2022, when precedent suggests he should.

Reasons to be fearful

Mr Xi may think that concentrating more or less unchecked power over 1.4bn Chinese in the hands of one man is, to borrow one of his favourite terms, the “new normal” of Chinese politics. But it is not normal; it is dangerous. No one should have that much power. One-man rule is ultimately a recipe for instability in China, as it has been in the past—think of Mao and his Cultural Revolution. It is also a recipe for arbitrary behaviour abroad, which is especially worrying at a time when Mr Trump’s America is pulling back and creating a power vacuum. The world does not want an isolationist United States or a dictatorship in China. Alas, it may get both.

This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “The world’s most powerful man”

The White House Enigma


October 10, 2017

The White House Enigma

https://www.washingtonpost.com

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The White House Enigma

After nearly nine months of the Trump administration, many of America’s closest allies have concluded that a hoped-for “learning curve” they thought would make President Trump a reliable partner is not going to happen.<

“The idea that he would inform himself, and things would change, that is no longer operative,” said a top diplomat here.

Instead, they see an administration in which lines of authority and decision-making are unclear, where tweets become policy and hard-won international accords on trade and climate are discarded. The result has been a special kind of challenge for those whose jobs are to advocate for their countries and explain the president and his unconventional ways at home.

Senior diplomats and officials from nearly a dozen countries in Europe, Latin America and Asia expressed a remarkable coincidence of views in interviews over the past several weeks. Asked to describe their thoughts about and relations with the President and his team as the end of Trump’s first year approaches, many described a whirlwind journey beginning with tentative optimism, followed by alarm and finally reaching acceptance that the situation is unlikely to improve.

“We have to adjust to this,” said a second diplomat from a different continent.

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Senator Bob Corker (R.Tennessee)  with Senator John McCain (R-Arizona). Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) weighed in on the tumult within President Trump’s administration on Oct. 4, and said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson “ends up not being supported in a way that I would hope a Secretary of State would be supported.”

 

Their concerns echo those expressed increasingly in public by Republican lawmakers such as Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker ­(R-Tenn.), who has spoken of administration “chaos” and on Sunday described the White House under Trump as an “adult day care center” where the president’s behavior must be managed.

Frustrations and fears, building for months, have grown especially intense in the past few weeks following Trump’s bellicose taunting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and his apparent decision to decertify Iranian compliance with the international nuclear deal.

Although foreign diplomats are restrained by the nature of their jobs from speaking out about the policies and politics of their host governments, it is not unusual for them to trade tips and gossip in the early days of a new administration when information is in short supply and it is unclear which top officials have the most sway with the leader of the free world. But their perplexing dealings with the Trump administration have become an obsession of late for ambassadors.

“It’s always an undercurrent when we get together,” a third senior diplomat said. “We’re always asking each other, ‘Who do you deal with inside the administration?’ ‘How do you handle difficult situations?’

“When somebody actually sees Trump, people immediately flock around: ‘What did you see?’ ‘What did he say?’ ‘Was Ivanka there?’ . . . ‘What kind of look was on Kelly’s face?’ ” he said, referring to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly. It is, he said, a kind of Kremlinology.

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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Some diplomats choose to focus on the positive. Estonian Ambassador Lauri Lepik, whose country’s fears of a resurgent Russia on its eastern border are practically existential, praised Vice President Pence’s summer stop in his country. It helped reassure NATO allies after Trump, on an earlier trip to Brussels, failed to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to alliance mutual defense.

“That was a highly appreciated visit,” Lepik said. “The administration was engaged, and we were in constant contact.”

Others, some of whom had difficulty with the Obama administration, have found a new closeness with the United States. Saudi Arabia, after enduring President Barack Obama’s human rights criticism and policy objections, is now a favored Trump nation.

Newly arrived Hungarian Ambassador Laszlo Szabo, whose government hews to the nationalistic right, said bilateral trade “is improving nicely and constantly.” His prime minister, Viktor Orban, was the first European leader during last year’s U.S. campaign to say a Trump presidency would be better for Europe — a view widely derided by his European partners.

Afghanistan’s Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib, whose government was alarmed by the Obama administration’s unfulfilled plans to withdraw the vast majority of U.S. troops from the country, said he and his government had regular high-level access to senior Trump administration officials this summer as the debate over the war heated up. “I was at the White House on a daily basis,” he said.

The access did not always bring clarity, especially when it came to figuring out how competing fiefdoms operated inside the West Wing. In August, Afghanistan paid $120,000 for a three-month contract with the Sonoran Policy Group, a lobbying firm with close ties to the White House, to gain “a better understanding of how the inside of the Trump administration works,” Mohib said.

The majority of those interviewed were far more critical and said they would speak candidly only on the condition of anonymity.

Several spoke of the difficulty of determining where power lies within the administration and how decisions are made. “We are still not sure how the equilibrium in this administration is playing out in terms of who is responsible for what,” a senior European said. “Is it the White House? The State Department? Is Defense calling the shots? . . . I’m being clinically analytical, not chiding. This is the situation. We are guessing, sometimes.”

Things have gotten “a bit better” since Kelly’s arrival over the summer, a Latin American said. “At least with process, if not policy. It’s clear [Kelly] has influence. But Jared? McMaster? We don’t know if they’re in or out,” he said, referring to Trump adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser.

Some try to posture in a way they think will appeal to Trump and those around him. South Korean President Moon Jae-in, a progressive pragmatist who visited Trump in the White House in June, “tried to sync with him, but it didn’t work,” said Joon Hyung Kim, a professor of international studies at Handong University.

“Moon is really a detail person, and he tried to explain things in detail” regarding defense and economic issues,” Kim said. “I don’t think Trump really liked that.”

“We want to trust Mattis and others,” he said, referring to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, generally considered a moderate buffer for Trump, “but we’re not really sure if they’re 100 percent bulletproof.”

Many of those interviewed said they are often told by administration officials to ignore Trump’s tweets or undiplomatic remarks. They recognize it is a risky game.

“In the business sector, you can be very forceful in negotiations,” said a diplomat whose government has been on the receiving end of Trump’s tweets. “You call each other names all day, then you sit down and have a martini. In foreign policy, there are consequences to the name-calling. Damage is done.”

Some foreign diplomats have tried to work around the White House by forging closer relationships with the battered and shrinking Democratic and Republican foreign policy establishment in Congress. Another strategy, particularly on issues related to climate change and trade, has been to work directly with governors, avoiding Washington entirely, several foreign diplomats said.

Others said their leaders, in meetings with Trump, have had to decide whether to take on what one called the president’s “one-sentence, very blunt affirmations.” Asked to give an example, this official recalled a discussion of the Iran nuclear deal in which Trump asserted, as he has before, “Iran is allowed to build a bomb” as soon as the agreement expires.

European signatories to the Iran nuclear deal have given up on trying to change his mind, or to argue that the accord’s sunset provision does not give Tehran a pass to restart its nuclear program. Instead, they have directed their attention to persuading Congress not to legislate new sanctions on Iran.

A diplomat whose country has close and cordial relations and no obvious problems with the administration said his government is nonetheless exploring more extensive trade and diplomatic ties with Asia.

“At the beginning,” he said, Trump was “a fascination.” As the months have passed, he said, “all this perplexing noise from Washington, it becomes background noise. And the United States is a bit less important than before.”

Karen DeYoung is associate editor and senior national security correspondent for the Washington Post.

Follow @karendeyoung1

Greg Jaffe is a reporter on the national staff of The Washington Post, where he has been since March 2009. Previously, he covered the White House and the military for The Post.

DOJ 1MDB probe independent of Najib-Trump meet


September 12, 2017

DOJ 1MDB probe independent of Najib-Trump meet, says The White House

http://www.malaysiakini.com

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The US Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation into the 1MDB scandal is independent of the upcoming discussions between US President Donald Trump and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, the White House said.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the discussions will instead focus on a wide variety of regional and security issues.

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“[They will be] talking about ways that they can strengthen counterterrorism cooperation, certainly the halt of ISIS, addressing North Korea and their continued actions, and making sure that we promote maritime security in the South China Sea.

“We’re not going to comment on an ongoing investigation being led by DOJ, and that investigation is apolitical and certainly independent of anything taking place tomorrow (which is today),” she said at a press briefing yesterday.

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No Gua Tolong Lu, Lu Tolong Gua agenda at Trump-Najib Meet at the White House on September 12 Meeting–The Good News

 

Sanders was asked whether Trump would address the DOJ investigation or avoid the issue, and what is expected of the meeting between Najib and Trump, which is scheduled to take place later today.

The DOJ is currently investigating the alleged misappropriation of US$4.5 billion from 1MDB on grounds that some of the funds had been routed through the US financial system.

 

It has filed multiple civil forfeiture suits since last year to seize the alleged proceeds of the misappropriation (totalling US$1.7 billion) and also revealed in a court filing last month that a criminal investigation has been underway for some time.

Its civil forfeiture filings had linked a certain “Malaysian Official 1” (MO1) in the scandal, saying that some of the funds had been routed through his bank account, and had been used to purchase diamonds for his wife.

MO1 is alleged to be referring to Najib, but he has denied allegations of misappropriating public funds for personal gain.

New World Order is leaving the US behind


August 13, 2017

New World Order is leaving the US behind

James Gibney, Bloomberg View

  • Pointing the way: German Chancellor Angela Merkel

 

Of all the global consequences of US President Donald Trump’s first half-year, surely one of the most surprising is the rise in multilateral diplomacy.

After all, this is the guy who came into office pledging to put America First. He downgraded the security guarantees of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation to a definite maybe — and only if its members ponied up more defence dollars.

The Iran nuclear pact was “the worst deal ever”, and the Paris accord on climate change wasn’t much better. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was dead on arrival. Japan and South Korea’s freeriding days were over. The North American Free Trade Agreement was toast. The US would ignore the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

And from its proposed cuts in foreign aid and United Nations peacekeeping to the empty offices and embassies of the State Department, the Trump administration has made clear how little it thinks of soft power and diplomacy.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the disintegration of the international liberal order. It’s started to reconstitute itself — only not with the US at its centre. Unfortunately, that has less to do with a realisation among our allies and partners that the burden must be more equitably shared than with the increasing recognition that Trump is not, as some US diplomats liked to say about Third World dictators during the Cold War, “someone we can do business with”.

That sentiment found its most trenchant expression in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s declaration, following Trump’s May trip to Europe, that the continent “must really take our fate into our own hands”. The net result of the Trump administration’s antipathy to free trade and co-operation on climate change and refugee resettlement was a united front against the US at both the Group of Seven and Group of 20 meetings.

Jilted by the US, the other 11 members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are moving ahead on their own. Canada and Mexico are working together more closely than ever to save NAFTA. Asian nations are hedging their bets between the US and China. Trump’s tough talk on Mexico has prompted it to reach out to its hemispheric rival Brazil on defence co-operation.

Serious differences among allies are nothing new. During the Ronald Reagan administration, for instance, hardline US attitudes towards a planned gas pipeline from the Soviet Union to Europe caused a transatlantic breach that strained even the “special relationship” with the UK. And the call for fairer burden-sharing by American treaty allies — the “free riders” — is also as old as the alliances themselves, even if Trump turned the volume up to 11.

Yet as destabilising as Trump’s transactional mindset — we’ll protect you if you pay us — has been, his temperament has been even more destructive. In Latin America, his brash bullying plays to the worst caricature of Yankee behaviour. No wonder the foreign ministers of 12 nations in the Americas who pledged this week in Peru not to recognise Venezuela’s new constituent assembly — a remarkable regional diplomatic achievement — chose to keep the US mostly out of it.

Then there is Trump’s uncoordinated impulsiveness. His “fire and fury” outburst towards North Korea upended earlier efforts by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Secretary of Defence James Mattis to reassure South Korea and Japan that the US was not about to put them in danger.

Tillerson has seen Trump repeatedly sandbag his efforts to broker a rapprochement among the US’s fractious Gulf allies. And transcripts of Trump’s phone conversations with Australia’s Malcolm Turnbull and Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto suggest that both men could be forgiven for thinking they were dealing with Homer Simpson, not the Leader of the Free World.

Image result for Goodbye AmericaAmerica’s Sell-by date came with Donald J. Trump–The White House and State Department are talking at cross purposes

 

Every hegemon has a sell-by date, and the US is no exception. Even during the halcyon days of the 1990s — remember when the US was being called a “hyperpower”? — President Bill Clinton’s administration was focused on creating institutions and a rules-based international order that it hoped would constrain China’s economic and strategic rise and extend the half-life of US supremacy. For a variety of reasons, that didn’t work out so well.

In that and other respects, the willingness of other democracies to step up on the world’s non-zero-sum challenges is welcome. Moreover, whether in matters of security or trade, Trump’s strong preference for bilateral deals that allow the US to make the most of its leverage could yield clear benefits.

If he and Chinese President Xi Jinping achieve a compact that balances their respective interests, so much the better. That approach could apply to US relations with Japan, the UK, and other US allies and partners. Strong bilateral agreements, after all, can provide a basis for stronger multilateral ones in years to come.

Image result for Barack Obama's Pivot to AsIa

Obama understood the importance of Asia and Xi’s China

But even bilateral agreements require a degree of discipline and co-ordination that Trump has yet to display. For now, Trump’s reflexive trashing of President Barack Obama’s policy choices without offering any coherent alternatives has left the US on awkward ground. It’s one thing for other countries to fill a diplomatic vacuum created by a gradual US withdrawal; it’s another for them to do so in the wake of a scorched-earth retreat. If and when the US recovers its strategic senses, it might find itself reduced to occupying a much less attractive seat at the multilateral table.

•James Gibney writes editorials on international affairs for Bloomberg View. He was features editor at the Atlantic, deputy editor at the New York Times op-ed page and executive editor at Foreign Policy magazine. He was a foreign service officer and a speechwriter for Secretary of State Warren Christopher, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake and president Bill Clinton