The following is an excerpt from nytimes.com | November 5, 2017 |
As President Trump undertakes his first official trip to Asia, American leadership and credibility are in doubt. Leaders in the region worry that his inflammatory statements and impulsiveness could lead to war with North Korea. And there is a serious debate in many Asian countries about whether the future lies in closer partnerships with China, the ascendant power, or with the United States.
With so much on the line, one would hope that Mr. Trump has prepared carefully for the challenge. Given what we’ve seen from him, there is good reason to question whether he has.
The president can ill afford to cede more ground to China. He has backed out of an American-led 12-nation trade deal that was supposed to counter China by setting higher caliber trade rules in Asia and has jettisoned the Paris agreement on climate change, creating space for Beijing to assert influence in both spheres.
Mr. Trump arrives in Asia as a wounded leader, with low ratings at home and a stalled legislative agenda, and dogged by revelations of Russian interference in the 2016 election on his behalf that have led to indictments against former advisers. His furious denunciations of the constitutional constraints he faces in trying to scuttle the investigation bring to mind the authoritarian leaders of whom he is so fond. This, along with his disregard for human rights, further diminishes the democracy that is America’s greatest source of strength and influence in the region.
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