[아시아엔=그레그 로슨?미 싱크탱크 ‘위키스트랫’ 연구원] 오바마 전 대통령은 재임 중 아시아로 많은 관심을 쏟았다. 오바마의 아시아를 향한 정책적 관심은 아무리 평가해도 지나치지 않을 것이다. 하지만 오바마의 임기가 끝난 지금 시점에서 보면 오바마보다는 트럼프 대통령에게 ‘최초의 환태평양 대통령’이란 칭호가 주어질 것 같다.
오바마 대통령은 임기 초기 아시아의 무한한 가능성을 내다보고 유럽이나 중동 등에 쏟아온 미 행정부의 관심으로 아시아로 돌릴 것이라고 말했다. 이에 따라 미 해군력의 아시아로의 이전이 시작됐다. 오바마는 환태평양경제동맹협정(TTP)에 대한 노력도 아끼지 않았다.
그러나 아쉽게도 이러한 ‘아시아로의 전환’을 위한 오바마 정부의 노력들은 임기말이 되도록 대부분 이행되지 않은 것으로 드러났다.
반면 트럼프는 미국의 이익에 집중하겠다고 공약하고 피터 나바로 같은 對中 강경론자들을 영입하며 중국에 대한 도발적 언급을 계속하고 있다.
트럼프는 대통령 취임 후 첫 일정 중 하나로 대만의 차이잉원 총통과의 전화 통화를 택했다. 이는 중국과 국교 수립 후 단절된 대만과의 관계를 재개하는 것으로 해석된다. 즉 1971년 닉슨의 중국 방문과 美中 수교 이후 계속돼온 미 행정부의 대중 정책방향이 상당부분 변화할 것이라는 예고편이라는 분석이 설득력을 얻고 있다.
일부 국제문제 전문가들은 트럼프가 그동안 오바마가 아시아에 쏟은 노력들을 다 허사로 만드는 게 아닌가 우려를 하지만 그럴 염려는 하지 않아도 될 것 같다.
트럼프는 TTP협정이 지연되고 있긴 하지만 계속 추진할 의도가 있으며, 아시아 경제문제에도 깊이 관여할 것이라는 입장을 분명히 하고 있기 때문이다.
트럼프는 중국의 시진핑 주석과의 첫 대화에서 ‘하나의 중국’ 정책을 인정하긴 했지만 오바마와 달리 오랫동안 신성불가침으로 여겨졌던 중국과의 관계에서 강경자세를 취할 것으로 보인다.
결과적으로 트럼프 대통령은 아시와의 관계를 종전처럼 지속해 나갈 것은 분명하지만, 모든 정책의 최우선 순위를 미국과 자국민 이익에 둘 것이란 점은 의심의 여지가 없어 보인다.(번역 송혜원 <아시아엔> 미국통신원)
The “Real Asia Pivot”: Trump Will Do What Obama Only Talked About
Former President Obama should be given credit for recognizing this and for attempting, however weakly and ineffectively, to transition American attention further east. Ironically, due to his Administration’s failures, it is likely to be the successor to America’s self-purported “First Pacific President,” the ever-pugnacious but unabashedly pro-American Donald Trump, who will have to implement a true pivot to Asia and away from regions in the world where the U.S. has overcommitted.
President Barack Obama intended to be the first “Pacific President” for the United States and billed himself as such during the early part of his Administration. Obama recognized the immense potential in Asia and made clear his intention to divest the U.S. from wasteful interventions and over-commitment in more stable and less important regions of the world such as Europe and the Middle East. It with great fanfare that his first Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton announced the Administration would focus more on Asia and embrace a so-called “Pivot.” To this end, President Obama slowly started shifting U.S. naval assets to Asia and worked hard to secure passage of a large-scale free trade agreement, the Trans-Pacific Partnership(TPP) that would maintain U.S. access to the region even as China’s economic clout continues to grow.
Unfortunately, at the end of his years in office, this pivot proved to be largely unfulfilled. The U.S. Senate never took up the TPP for a vote. Due to domestic spending restraints, the number of U.S. naval assets available to shift was left in a declining state both numerically and qualitatively. China made major strides in constructing man-made islands in the South China Sea while creating and Asia Infrastructure Bank to cement its already essential role as the central economic engine in East Asia. Multiple countries in the region were wondering whether to hedge their bets on China’s rise and American withdrawal, including key states like the Philippines.
Into this tumultuous geopolitical environment strode the newly elected President Donald Trump. President Trump ran and was elected on a platform that played to domestic U.S. fears of being taken advantage of by other nations throughout the world. He promised to focus, laser-like, on U.S. national interests and spoke in bellicose terms about China in particular while bringing major China hawks, like Peter Navarro (who wrote a book unsubtly titled “Death by China”), to Washington with him.
President Trump promised to bring back manufacturing jobs many in the industrial Midwest, the states that gave President Trump his election victory, felt had been stolen by a cheating China. He promised to do this by “leveling the playing field” and making sure China was put into it’s place.
One of his very first acts was to become the first President-elect, to personally speak with the President of Taiwan since relations were broken in 1979 as a part of normalization with China. He subsequently raised questions on what his new Administration’s stance on the cornerstone of Sino-U.S. relations, the “One-China” policy, might be, something no U.S. President has done since Richard Nixon went to China in the early 1970s.
Further, on his first full workday after being sworn in, President Trump formally suspended the TPP to the consternation of the many nations that had bee negotiating the deal for years. Meanwhile, President Trump’s Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has gone on a tour around Asia to calms the frayed nerves of U.S. allies like South Korea and Japan.
Overall, many analysts are scratching their heads at the seemingly mixed messages coming from the Trump Administration. Many think that President Trump is essentially gutting all of the efforts that former President Obama put towards shifting U.S. focus to Asia and risks isolating the U.S. regionally. Though understandable given the abrupt and dramatic departure from Obama’s mellifluous rhetoric that Trump represents, these fears are overblown.
President Trump has made clear he intends to negotiate bilateral trade deals, thus, while the TPP being killed might delay advantageous arrangements, there will continue to be an effort to remain deeply engaged in Asia economically. Also, President Trump is clearly showing his desire to rebuild the U.S. Navy which should be heralded by friends in the region that wish to hedge their bets on the peacefulness of China’s rise.
Finally, while he did eventually recognize the “One China” policy in his first communication as President with Chinese President Xi Jinping, President’s Trump’s willingness to even question a policy long seen as sacrosanct shows that he, unlike President Obama, is willing to play hardball with China.
Taken together, this means that President Trump is quite clearly engaged with Asia, but anticipates keeping American interests first in all of his dealings. This sets the foundation for what will be a long-term evolution of American policy that sees it inexorably engage more deeply with Asian geopolitics. America is not going anywhere and will play a pivotal role is assuring the entire region than the regional superpower to be, China is not the only game in town. Though his approach might not be the preferred approach of many in the region, President Trump is showing himself more interested in actual accomplishments as opposed to nice sounding sound bites without follow through.