The Trump factor: Asian allies question America’s reliability

To force Seoul to pay more, Washington put thousands of South Koreans working on US bases on furlough in April, when the coronavirus pandemic was already hitting the economy hard. The measure was suspended after a stopgap deal agreed in early June, but the damage in terms of public sentiment had been done.

“Mr Trump taunted us, saying it was easier to get rent money from New Yorkers than getting money from the Koreans, and then he insulted us by calling us freeloaders,” says Lieutenant-General Chun In-Bum, a retired South Korean special forces commander. “Now, it has become an emotional issue for the Koreans, which is very unfortunate.”…

“Several countries in Asia have concerns about aligning themselves with a US that seems less predictable and not reliable,” says Bonnie Glaser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the US think-tank. “If Trump is voted out in [presidential elections in] November, there will be a sigh of relief across the region.”

But Washington’s allies have doubts about US support that go well beyond the Trump administration. “The reasons are our diplomatic attention span and our military capabilities,” she says.