The Skeptics

Trump Has an Opportunity to Reduce Tension Between America and North Korea

Several public statements by high-ranking administration officials shortly before Trump left for Asia suggest that the results of the Japan visit represent a new normal in the administration’s approach to China. In an early October hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, “Regarding [OBOR] . . . there are many belts and many roads, and no one nation should put itself in a position dictating ‘One Belt, One Road.’” Approximately two weeks later, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson outlined the administration’s approach to U.S.-India relations, calling India a “pillar of democracy” and pushing for greater cooperation in regional economics and security. High-profile criticism of OBOR and support for India, a major geopolitical rival to China, point to a more adversarial U.S.-China relationship in the offing.

Trump’s diplomatic odyssey in East Asia will produce important insight into his administration’s strategy toward this pivotal region. A strong showing in Japan offers a solid foundation for the president to build upon, but there are many more stops to make before he returns home. He should not pass up the opportunity to rein in the dangerous crisis on the Korean Peninsula, and he should clearly state a coherent strategy for U.S.-China relations before returning.

Eric Gomez is a policy analyst for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute.