Shihoko Goto: Trump has completed day one of his 12-day tour of the region. This is his first trip to Asia as president. So that in itself is a very significant one. But it’s also the longest [visit made] by an American president in over two decades, so these are two very significant issues. But the biggest issue, of course, is that the region is facing incredible uncertainty at the moment.
Sputnik: The North Korean crisis will be the main focus of discussion during the trip; do you think the tour will pave the way for its resolution or even the start of a resolution?
Shihoko Goto: This should be a listening tour for Trump. We have heard a lot of his opinions through his tweets as well as his foreign policy speeches. This should be an opportunity for Trump to understand how the United States could work with potential partners, countries, not just Japan, but also South Korea, China and Russia – and to listen to their concerns and understand what possibilities may be had to resolve this in a way that is acceptable to all parties involved.
Sputnik: Donald Trump has also expressed hope that President Vladimir Putin would give him some assistance regarding the North Korean problem. Do you believe any progress will be made on that matter?
Shihoko Goto: I think progress has already been made at the introduction of this segment stated; Trump has announced that he will actually be meeting with President Putin on the sidelines of APEC later this week in Vietnam. So that is really a very good progress, and once we get them at this table, I think there is a kind of rapport between the two men in spite of the heightened tensions between the US and Russia. So there is a cautious optimism on this.
Sputnik: Do you think the US will ever commit to a Russia-China plan over North Korea then?
Shihoko Goto: The United States has been unwavering in its expectations for North Korea. That is to say that it cannot accept a nuclear North Korea. Russia and China are willing to accept and accommodate that and work within the framework; so as long as there is this big divide whether North Korea should be accepted as a nuclear power or not will be that big stumbling block between the two sides.
Shihoko Goto is a senior associate for Northeast Asia with the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Asia Program based in Washington DC.