Asia Swallows Its Fear And Disappointment To Congratulate Trump

REUTERS/Mike Segar

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Ryan Pickrell China/Asia Pacific Reporter
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Asian leaders congratulated President-elect Donald Trump one after the other Wednesday, despite fears that his policies will rattle the region.

Trump’s victory over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came as a shocking surprise to the Asia-Pacific region, which was overwhelmingly expecting and hoping for a Clinton presidency. A survey of people from China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Singapore, and the Philippines showed 76 percent favoring Clinton, with only 24 percent of people backing the new president elect.

After Trump’s win, Asian leaders put aside their concerns and disappointments and congratulated him on his victory.

“I look forward to working closely with President-elect Trump to further strengthen the bonds of the Japan-U.S. alliance and to together play a leadership role in ensuring peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region,” said Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, calling the U.S. and Japan “unshakable allies.”

The prime minister did not mention Trump’s campaign comments presenting Japan as a trade rival taking advantage of the U.S.

South Korea’s Park Geun-hye, who is fighting to preserve her leadership as scandals cripple her administration and struggling with an increasingly-belligerent North Korea, congratulated Trump, expressing a desire for “closer cooperation between the two nations on North Korea’s nuclear issue and a stronger ROK-U.S. alliance.”

The president did not mention Trump’s claims that South Korea is not paying its fair share for U.S. protection, an accusation also lodged against Japan.

“Given the United States is our ally and that the South Korea-U.S. relationship has a great impact on our diplomacy, security and economy, I think we need to extensively explore ways to develop close relations with the incoming Trump administration,” Park said during a National Security Council session Wednesday.

“I highly value the relations between China and the United States, and I am looking forward to working together with you to expand China-U.S. cooperation on the basis of the principles of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation, with differences controlled in a constructive manner, so as to push China-U.S. relations further forward from a new starting point, better benefiting the peoples of the two countries and other countries,” China’s President Xi Jinping said in response to Trump’s win.

The president did not address Trump’s claims that China is stealing jobs and “raping this country” with unfair trade practices or his promises to enact sweeping 45 percent punitive tariffs on Chinese goods and label China a currency manipulator immediately after taking office.

“The United States is the most important democratic country in the world and the most solid international partner of Taiwan,” the President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen announced, “I look forward to cooperating with Trump’s new ruling team to continue to improve Taiwan-U.S. relations so that it becomes an important cornerstone for maintaining peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.”

Tsai did not bring up concerns that Trump’s demonstrated disinterest in maintaining strong defense ties with U.S. allies and partners in Asia may manifest itself as a lack of support for Taiwan against a rising China pushing to retake the island.

The Philippines “looks forward to working with the incoming administration for enhanced Philippines-U.S. relations anchored on mutual respect, mutual benefit and shared commitment to democratic ideals and the rule of law,” a spokesman said on President of the Philippines Rodrigo Duterte’s behalf.

Duterte congratulated Trump, despite domestic concerns that Trump’s protectionist policies will negatively affect the alliance.

A Trump presidency has the potential to significantly reshape the Asia Pacific, and the key players are likely already bracing themselves for what that might mean.

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