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  • Introduction
  • Jessica Keough (bio)

Considerable uncertainty has surrounded the Trump administration's priorities in Asia. While U.S. cabinet officials have at times sought to reassure the region that the United States intends to preserve its commitment to the post–World War II international system, other comments and actions by the administration have indicated an inward turn that suggests less active U.S. engagement. These mixed signals have left regional allies, partners, and other states wondering what the future holds for their relationships with the United States.

A roundtable discussion in the January 2017 issue of Asia Policy, "Assessing U.S.-Asia Relations in a Time of Transition," presented mainly American perspectives on the major issues facing the United States in its bilateral relations with leading powers in the Asia-Pacific at the outset of the Trump administration. This Asia Policy roundtable offers perspectives on U.S.-Asia relations from leading scholars and policy practitioners in select Asia-Pacific states. In their essays, these experts identify the most salient current and over-the-horizon issues in their countries' evolving relationships with the United States and evaluate how bilateral relations have progressed so far under the Trump administration.

For China, Xie Tao examines four major issues confronting the U.S.-China relationship that both raise the possibility of conflict and offer prospects for cooperation: North Korea, the South China Sea, democratization in Taiwan and Hong Kong, and the sharing of global major-power responsibilities. The United States and China will likely find themselves working with each other in these areas, whether they want to or not, and will need to treat each other respectfully to avoid escalating risks.

In Japan and South Korea, the U.S. alliance continues to form the bedrock of bilateral relations. Noboru Yamaguchi finds that, to Japan's relief, the U.S. commitment to the alliance and to Northeast Asian security seems unchanged, despite indications during Trump's presidential campaign that he might shift the burden for Northeast Asia's defense to the region. Kang Choi also addresses the importance of the United States' role as Northeast Asia's security guarantor in his essay on South Korea. Although Japan and [End Page 2] South Korea are concerned about China's rise and regional dominance, both identify North Korea as their most urgent security threat. According to Choi, the new administrations in Washington and Seoul will need to closely coordinate their policies toward the North and establish trust in each other. In light of North Korea's alarming acceleration of its nuclear weapons and missile programs, the allies face critical challenges ahead.

While U.S. allies in Northeast Asia worry about abandonment, similar fears are very high in Taiwan. Ming Lee argues that, given its unofficial relations with most countries (including the United States) but also its unique security commitments from Washington, Taiwan struggles to make its voice heard internationally and fears becoming a bargaining chip in U.S. relations with China.

The Kremlin is watching with interest the domestic upheaval in U.S. politics over allegations about the Trump campaign's possible links to Russia. Dmitri Trenin characterizes Russia's relationship with the United States under Trump as "confrontational with islands of cooperation." Issues such as NATO, European security, Afghanistan, and sanctions over Ukraine continue to generate friction, while reaching an agreement on sensitive issues such as Syria and the renegotiation of strategic arms control treaties will require a cautious, patient approach to overcome obstacles along the path of cooperation.

China's rise is the defining structural characteristic shaping U.S.-India relations. Balancing China will likely bring Washington and New Delhi closer together over the long term, Rajesh Rajagopalan argues, however, that a number of roadblocks—the Trump administration's transactional approach to bilateral relationships, U.S. relations with Pakistan, economic nationalism, and domestic chaos in U.S. politics—could hinder this progress in the short term. Pakistan and the United States, by contrast, remain bound together over Afghanistan and the war on terrorism, but the long-term prospects for this strained relationship are uncertain. Moeed Yusuf details how Islamabad's and Washington's views of each other and their strategic priorities in South Asia increasingly...


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