Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#567】Trump Deviates from U.S. Strategy Documents

Fumio Ota / 2019.01.23 (Wed)

January 21, 2019

     In mid-January, the U.S. Department of Defense published three documents - “China Military Power,” “Assessment on U.S. Defense Implications of China’s Expanding Global Access” and “Missile Defense Review.” While “China Military Power” represents a pure analysis of the present situation by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the other two influence U.S. strategies. Regarding the treatment of allies, President Donald Trump’s words and actions clearly deviate from the strategies written in the Pentagon documents.

Pentagon calls for strengthening alliances
     “Assessment on U.S. Defense Implications of China’s Expanding Global Access” is a report required by the fiscal 2018 defense authorization act, describing China’s non-military global influence compared with “China Military Power.”
     Particularly, the document points out that China has indicated interests in constructing bases in Cambodia and the southern Pacific republic of Vanuatu following a base established in the northeastern African republic of Djibouti, that China is reaching out to the 5G next-generation communications network for its “Digital Silk Road” initiative and that China is enhancing its global influence by controlling foreign media and tourists.
     The report cites three U.S. responses given in the National Defense Strategy, including the strengthening relations with allies as the second response. This report was prepared in December 2018 under former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis who emphasized relations with allies.
Trump’s different tone
     “Missile Defense Review” cites allies and partners as subject to defense and cooperation. The U. S. has deployed the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) missile system in South Korea and the Aegis Ashore system in North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies such as Romania and Poland because these missile defense systems in these allies close to potential missile-launching countries can take geographical advantage of expanding the footprint. Forward deployment bases in allies are required for F-35 fighters and laser systems that would be used for the boost-phase interception of hypersonic missiles under development by China and Russia.
     Nevertheless, President Trump indicated the possible withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea after the first U.S.-North Korea summit last June and reportedly suggested the U. S.’ withdrawal from NATO. His words clearly indicate his basic deviation from the above-mentioned strategy documents.
     In this Speaking Out column on February 13 last year, I noted that the National Security Strategy published in late 2017, excluding its preface written by President Trump, was very reliable. It is difficult for the U. S. alone to counter China and Russia recognized as “revisionist powers” in the strategy. I wish that the strategy depicted by Pentagon officials matches President Trump’s thinking.

Fumio Ota is a senior fellow and a Planning Committee member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals. He is a retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.