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Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is set to be a predictable failure

It starts with a “greeting” from North Korea and will end with Trump coming face to face with Asian countries that need and want less and less from the United States.

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Donald Trump is set to begin a trip to several East and South East Asian countries beginning at the weekend. His trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Philippines and Vietnam.

In many ways, Trump’s trip can already be consigned to the realm of useless predictability, simply because the countries of Asia are moving in such a way, that regional events are now far more impactful than any statements or actions, short of a war, that any US leader is capable of instigating.

1. Philippines 

The biggest disappointment for Trump will most likely be Philippines. In a short year, due to the epoch shifting leadership of President Rodrigo Duterte, Philippines has shaken its tunnel-vision style relationship with the US and has opened up to new relations with countries across Asia and Eurasia, including China and Russia.

Russia is expanding security ties with the former US colony which saw Russia deliver thousands of free arms to Philippines as well as multiple military vehicles. The recent visit of Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu to Manila as part of a Russian Naval flotilla, is a further sign of Philippines’ historically good relations with Moscow.

Duterte welcomes Russian Naval ships to Philippines as military cooperation pact is signed

During Duterte’s first presidential visit to China, President Xi Jinping hailed Duterte’s rapprochement with Beijing as something that would usher in a “golden era” of good relations between China and Philippines. Already, Chinese firms are preparing to build new modern districts in Manila and China looks to play a vital role in the re-development of Marawi, the southern Philippine city that was recently liberated from the ISIS-Maute group after a five month long siege.

Against this backdrop, there is little the US can do to build new ties with Philippines. While the US still maintains a prominent presence in the country, President Duterte has frequently stated that he remains intent on breaking free of the colonial mentality, in spite of any offers the US might bring.

While Duterte personally loathed Barack Obama, once famously calling him a “son of a whore”, he has frequently said that he respects Donald Trump’s more straightforward rhetoric.

Because of this, it is likely that Duterte and Trump will have a good personal relationship. Leaked transcripts of a phone call between the two already indicates that they enjoy speaking to one another.

However, this will not likely translate into any new meaningful agreements between Washington and Manila, not least because the US Congress has steadfastly worked to undermine Duterte because of his anti-colonial and anti-drug policies.

Trump will end up leaving a country that the US once took for granted, with ultimately nothing to show.

2. South Korea 

If his speech to the UN is anything to go by, Trump’s brief one day visit to South Korea may well become eventful in terms of Trump’s threatening rhetoric against the DPRK (North Korea). However, South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in is doing everything he can to turn down the tensions prior to Trump’s visit.

Seoul recently agreed not to install any more US made THAAD missile systems, after complaints from China. This indicates China’s rapidly expanding influence in East Asia, including over countries with deeply intertwined relations with the US.

Furthermore, President Moon stated that his country will never seek to develop its own nuclear arsenal, in a move that appears to be a sign that South Korea does not seek to waste its resources buying expensive US made military technology. Protests against Trump are already being planned by peace activists throughout the country.

Amid Trump’s threats to cancel a US-South Korea free trade deal, Seoul continues to move economically closer to Russia, while consolidating new economic partnerships throughout the world. During his speech at the UN, Moon even acknowledged his willingness to participate in economic cooperation schemes with the DPRK, something first touted by President Vladimir Putin at the Eastern Economic Forum in Russia. President Moon and a delegation from Pyongyang both attended the forum in Vladivostok.

Two Koreas–One Road: The future of cooperation between North Korea, South Korea and Russia

Beyond standard fraternal greetings and expressions of bi-national friendship, Donald Trump will be hosted by a South Korean leader, who unlike his imprisoned predecessor Park Geun-hye, is not sympathetic to militarism and a threatening stance towards the North.

Trump’s visit to South Korea will be largely symbolic of a relationship that South Koreans feel is one sided and increasingly detrimental to the long term interests of East Asian peace.

3. Japan 

Right-wing (by Japanese standards) Prime Minister Shinzō Abe just won a snap election which many say he will try to use to abandon Japan’s constitutionally mandated pacifism. Although the US insisted on a pacific Japanese state after 1945, today, many in the US would like Japan to expand its military position in East Asia in order to present a rival force to China and also the much smaller North Korean military.

However, Japan’s legislative system and constitution makes it incredibly difficult for Abe to enact de-pacification. Additionally, there is little popular support for such a measure. Furthermore, while Abe’s victory is being hailed by many as a landslide, his party actually won six fewer seats than in the previous 2014 elections.

In this sense, while Trump and Abe may be speaking in similar tones, it is difficult to see what will come of the visit, especially since Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a would-be free trade agreement whose aim was to rival One Belt–One Road in the Pacific. Ultimately, Trump withdrew citing domestic concerns about offshoring industrial jobs.

In this sense, friendly stagnation may well be the atmosphere surrounding Trump’s time in Tokyo.

4. Vietnam 

It’s something of an ironic fact that a US President may find himself more welcome in a Communist Vietnamese state that was the location of multiple US war crimes during the 1960s and 1970s, than in traditionally pro-US nations in Asia.

In spite of the past, Vietnam has largely embraced trade with the US as part of its post-Cold War economic liberalisation. Moreover, Vietnam is the country whose regional disputes with China continue to be felt most strongly and in this sense Washington and Hanoi have found common cause.

Even though China is Vietnam’s number one trading partner, the ancient and modern rivalry between the two states still factors heavily for the leadership in Hanoi.

In this sense, it will be interesting to see how much Donald Trump indulges the leadership of Vietnam in anti-Chinese rhetoric. As Trump continues to vacillate between patronising and insulting China, Beijing will be keenly listening to what he says when in Vietnam. If he takes things too far in respect of anti-Chinese rhetoric, China will be deeply displeased, especially if Trump comes out swinging in respect of Vietnam’s dispute with China over South China Sea territorial and maritime rights.

Thus, the only country on his visit where anything even slightly positive might transpire, is one where Trump ought to be more diplomatic and less excitable than in any of the others.

CONCLUSION: 

The foregone conclusion of failure which is all but implicit in Donald Trump’s trip to Asia, is not entirely his fault. Barack Obama’s once touted ‘pivot to Asia’ ended up with Asian countries moving further away from the US. By the end of Obama’s term, China was not only the uncontested king of the region, with many strengthened alliances as well as new partnerships, but Obama threw away a great deal of good will that had existed with China, even under the George W. Bush administration.

With China and Russia working to make Asia and Eurasia less and less dependant on the US Dollar, Washington not only has less to receive but less to give Asia. The gradual decline of America’s presence in Asia is already underway.

Russia and China actively collude to bring down the only thing America cares about

To cap things off, North Korea has published the following statement ahead of Donald Trump’s visit. It serves as a kind of ‘greeting card’ ahead of a trip that will bear few fruits for anyone:

“The mouth of Trump, master of invective ill-famed for spouting bellicose and irresponsible rhetoric, caused trouble again.

At a recent interview with Fox News, he said the U.S. is incredibly well prepared to cope with the “north’s provocation” and anyone will be “greatly shocked” to know about it.

It is nothing surprising as he reeled off the rhetoric calling for “totally destroying” a sovereign state at a UN arena, obliged to discuss peace issue, only to throw the world into consternation.

But what is worthy taking note of is his sordid wordplay before his Asian junket.

Maybe, he wanted to threaten the DPRK, embolden his stooges like Japan and south Korea and show off his “might”.

But this only proves that he has a serious headache and is pushed into the corner because of the DPRK.

Now he is introducing nuclear carrier task force and other massive strategic hardware into waters off the Korean peninsula while spreading such ambiguous phrases as “calm before storm” and “only one effective way”. He is, at the same time, making all desperate efforts to make the whole world join it in putting sanctions and pressure on the DPRK, only to see it proving ineffective.

Instead, he disclosed his true nature as a nuclear war maniac before the world and was diagnosed as “incurably mentally deranged”.

The CNN recently carried out an opinion poll and 63 percent of respondents denounced Trump’s DPRK policy as “imprudent one which escalates tension”.

There are strong assertions within the U.S. political circle calling on Trump to take his hands off Korea, and experts on the Korean issue are denouncing Trump for trying to settle the “nuclear issue of the north”, whose solution has been failed despite scores of years of endeavors, with a few improvised words. They comment that Trump is too incompetent to play the role of standing in confrontation with the DPRK as it becomes a hard challenge even to president possessed of abilities and judgment.

Yet, Trump behaves as if he will do something big, while bluffing about “full preparedness” and “big shock”. He absolutely needs medicine for curing his psychical disorder.

He even affirmatively estimated and encouraged “China’s participation in sanctions on the DPRK”, and said that “China is truly helping the U.S. over the north Korea issue”. These brownnosing words are utterly sickening and disgusting.

Trump’s wild outbursts are just the hysteric spasmodic symptom of his discomfort and fear after finding that his strategy does not work on the DPRK and the DPRK is getting stronger, instead.

Incompetent ones are apt to make a false show of power.

Now is high time that the U.S. pondered over the might of the DPRK’s state nuclear force”.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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