US & UK Signal New Outlook on Asia

imgresTwo of Japan’s western allies have been sending messages about their policies in East Asia.

America’s president-elect Donald Trump has criticised China over trade and security and opened up an unprecedented dialogue with Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has said Britain’s policy towards the region should not only be decided by trade and exports but also by the rule of law.

Mr Johnson said that Britain supports bids by India and “other countries” to become permanent members of the UN security council.

Mr Johnson said nothing directly about Japan in his speech but Japan has long aspired to be on the UN Security Council, even though China objects.

Mr Johnson used cautious language about China and stressed that Britain was one of the first Western countries to join the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

China has substantial investment in the UK. But in fact, Japan is the largest Asian investor in Britain and accounts for around half of all Japan’s investment in Europe. Mr Johnson said the recent vote by Britain to leave the EU should not be seen as the UK turning its back on the world. He said that following the Brexit, Britain must be “more outward-looking and more engaged with the world than ever before.”

Mr Johnson delivered his message through an elegantly-crafted speech at Chatham House in London. President-elect Trump on the other hand used social media to Tweet his views on China.

He accused China of unfair trade practices and complained about its military activities in the South China Sea.

“Did China ask us if it was OK to devalue their currency” and “build a massive military complex?” he asked on Twitter. “I don’t think so!”

President-elect Trump also defended his decision to speak to the Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen.

China regards Taiwan as a breakaway state and never calls its leader a president, instead referring to her as “a Chinese regional leader”.

China can hardly be surprised by Mr Trump’s approach. He was sharply critical of China during his election campaign. The Chinese media has been calm, noting that the US and China have long had “highly mutually beneficial” relations.

The BBC’s China Editor Carrie Gracie says China’s leaders must be wondering what will happen next in terms of its relations with the US.

Japan will be wondering that, too. However, Mr Trump’s friendly gesture towards Taiwan could be pleasing to Japan, which also wants to be friends with Taiwan and definitely does not share China’s animosity towards their neighbour.

Mr Abe was the first foreign leader to meet Mr Trump following his recent election success. That may signal that the US-Japan relationship is on a much better footing than the rather tense one that seems to be developing between America and China.

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