In Japan, a second term of ‘foolhardy’ Trump is viewed unfavourably amid US-China rivalry
- Just 1 in 10 people believe a second term for US President Donald Trump would be positive for Japan, according to a poll
- Possible fallout from a trade row, coronavirus cases linked to US troops in Japan, and military conflict in the Asia-Pacific are cited as causes for concern
Published: 7:15am, 23 May, 2020
The respondents cited the possibility of the fallout from a US-China trade war, additional cases of the
linked to US troops in Japan, or even a military conflict in the Asia-Pacific region as grounds for their concern.
In the survey, 57 per cent of Japanese indicated a victory for Trump in November would be “negative” for Japan. Just 10 per cent said that re-election would be “positive”, while the remainder had no opinion or said it would have no impact on Japan.
“Traditionally, Japanese people have held a kind disposition towards American leaders, even supporting President George W. Bush in the Iraq War, for example,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Tokyo’s Sophia University. “So in some ways, these figures are a surprise.”
Japanese think that re-electing Trump in November would be like giving the car keys to a drunk.
Jeff Kingston, Temple University (Tokyo)
“But on the other hand, they are not a surprise,” he added. “Trump comes across as being foolhardy, of acting quite bizarrely at times, of conduct that is basically quite dangerous, and that is all being reported in Japan.”
For the average Japanese, the primary immediate concerns revolve around the coronavirus pandemic and the impact the crisis will have on the economy and, consequently, their lives.
In April, Defence Minister Taro Kono confirmed that there had been cases of coronavirus infections among US military personnel based in Japan, but he played down the likelihood of those cases emerging into the general population, saying the outbreaks were “not at a level where there is a problem with deterrence”.
Japan hosts the largest concentration of American military personnel outside the US.
On Thursday, US Airforce transport aircraft massed at Yokota Air Base in Japan, a key Asian military air transport hub, to show “adversaries as well as our allies in Japan … the importance of our ability to execute our mission”, said base vice-commander Colonel Jason Mills.
JAPAN CAUGHT IN BETWEEN
Trump has been highly critical of China’s government in recent weeks, a tactic that analysts suggest is designed to shift attention away from his administration’s failure to contain the coronavirus in the US.
There are also fears that he might provoke a renewed bout of trade friction with Beijing in an effort to look tough on China ahead of the US presidential election in November. Stuck between the two superpowers and economically very close to both, Japan would inevitably feel the impact of any such trade clash.
Another scenario that has been mooted is that Trump could provoke a military clash in the Western Pacific to burnish his reputation as a “wartime president” and attempt to rally the nation behind him.
“Trump does not come across as being reliable,” Nakano said. “He is also seen as a president who has been unusually unkind to Japan. He has made repeated demands on trade and security issues and does not appear to consider Tokyo’s position in talks with China or North Korea, for example.”
Jeff Kingston, director of Asian studies at the Tokyo campus of Temple University, believes that Japanese are wary of a leader who is “erratic, unreliable and who has gutted all the international treaties and alliances that the US had previously agreed to”