By: Professor. Satoshi Ikeuchi
Professor, Global Security and Religion, University of Tokyo.
U.S. President Donald Trump did not bomb Iran but are now throwing bombshells of tweets here and there. Not only enemy countries like Iran are subject to his ire, often allied countries of the U.S. like Gulf Cooperation Council member states are afflicted of his whimsical words. Now it’s East Asian allies’ turn.
In his tweets on June 24, Trump questioned the U.S. role in protecting the shipping lanes of the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz for oil importers like China and Japan “for zero compensation.” He declared “All of these countries should be protecting their own ships”.
According to Trump, U.S. doesn’t need to be in the Gulf because U.S. has become the largest producer of energy in the world. The requests to Iran from Trump are only abandoning nuclear weapons program and sponsoring of terrorism. Keeping safe flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz and securing sea lanes from oil exporting countries to the importing countries seem neither priority nor responsibility of U.S. in President Trump’s mind.
On the same day, Bloomberg scooped private conversations of Trump with his confidents. According to the Bloomberg report, Trump doubted the necessity of US-Japan Security Treaty and mused withdrawing from it.
It was even reported he suggested demanding $10 billion compensation for the real estate of the U.S. base which is going to be moved to another place inside the same Okinawa prefecture.
U.S.-Japan Security Treaty has been the cornerstone of Japan’s security policy since it was signed in 1951. This treaty has been recognized one of the most important pillars of peace and stability in the East Asia and it also gave U.S. a vital stepping stone across the Pacific Ocean, indispensable for U.S. dominance in the Indo-Pacific seas.
Trump himself declared during his visit to Japan “The U.S.-Japan alliance has never been stronger” and eulogized “the ironclad partnership between U.S. and Japanese forces” in May 28. Then, in the next month, he tweeted and confided like that.
Many say it might be a bluff to make trade talks with Japan advantageous.
“Protection racketeering” is a disgraceful word and often employed by American political scientists to describe the autocratic leaders’ way of ruling. It is deplorable that recently the American president does not hesitate to be described as such.
Even though Bloomberg report reemphasized that Trump hasn’t taken any steps toward actually pulling out of the treaty, still it causes anxiety because Mr. Trump has a record of unilaterally withdrawing from useful international agreements without viable alternatives and making things much worth.