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The age of uncertainty

Jan 21,2017
President-elect Donald Trump has been sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. His administration heralds uncertainties down the road, as seen in his rough rhetoric and habitual resorting to politics through Twitter. Trump attempts to shatter established political narratives this way.

The maverick leader is encouraged by U.S. citizens’ deepening anger toward the establishment, resistance against the polarization of wealth and anti-immigration sentiment. His victory indicates a seismic shift in the existing international order because he doubts if America’s role as the world leader really benefits his country.

Yet consistency can be found in the way he speaks and behaves. All the commitments he made during the campaign are focused on making America great again. That means he will push forward foreign policy based on power rather than blindly sticking to the long-cherished principle of seeking U.S. interests.

A good example is his China-bashing. Trump perceives China as a dangerous country that garners a huge trade surplus and poses a threat to U.S. hegemony in Asia. That’s why he tries to defeat China economically, diplomatically and militarily. Trump’s move to improve relations with Russia would help America better cope with China’s dramatic rise.

A looming Sino-U.S. conflict poses a threat to us. South Korea will be increasingly pressured to choose between Washington and Beijing whenever friction occurs between the two. That presents a dilemma over how to reconcile our plan to deploy the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) anti-missile system and China’s cooperation in implementing sanctions against North Korea. We also have to tackle challenges from the currency war between China and the U.S. and other disputes.

Our relations with the U.S. will face a challenge as Trump will most likely call for us to assume a bigger share in the cost of U.S. forces here and a renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Fortunately, Trump maintains a strong position on North Korea’s nuclear weapons, though he is also willing to talk with Pyongyang.

But we must understand that Trump bases his policy direction on practical interests. The tycoon-turned-president even made it clear that he is willing to shake the one-China policy. Under his presidency, practical interests will loom large in international relations. We must strike a balance between our national interests and the United States’s.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 21, Page 26