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As Donald Trump’s administration comes to power in Washington, the postwar security policy of the US is undergoing a monumental transition. The new president’s campaign rhetoric strongly intimated that under his self-proclaimed ‘America first’ posture, traditional American strategy and alliance politics would undergo a major change. Whether through his adoption of ‘tweet diplomacy’ to provide unprecedented commentary on issues and events over which he would have no control until 21 January 2017, or his many phone conversations with foreign leaders, Trump has arguably been the most active president-elect on foreign and security policy issues that the US has witnessed in modern times. True, his policy style and negotiating behaviour during this time frame have been intensely debated. What’s clear, however, is that his approach to dealing with allies and adversaries will be based less on their traditional roles in US foreign policy and more on how he and his foreign and security policy team view other countries’ willingness to adjust their own policies to conform with a markedly different set of US economic and strategic priorities.
This Strategic Insight looks at North Korea, Southeast Asia, Australia and region-wide concerns. It concludes while Trump postulates an ‘America first’ posture, that hardly represents an ‘Asia last’ prescription. Above all else, Trump’s history is shaped by his reputation in the business world for hard but fluid bargaining to derive optimal results for interest-based objectives.