What is the future of geopolitics and U.S. engagement in the Asia-Pacific following from President Donald Trump’s first official state visit to the region? In this podcast, Paul Haenle sat down with Daniel Russel, former special assistant to President Obama and senior director for Asian Affairs on the National Security Council, to discuss the major outcomes of Trump’s visit, the newly minted U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, and the pressing security issue of North Korea.
Following the 2008 financial crises, the U.S. rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific was driven by a recognition of the region’s importance as a driver of global growth. Russel argued that the United States should continue to actively and credibly engage in the affairs of the region to benefit from that growth. Under the Trump administration, U.S. interests in the region have remained the same, Russel said, focusing on the clear and present danger of North Korea and the importance of sustaining strong relations with regional allies. While countries in the region have a deep reservoir of faith in the United States, Russel argued that Trump’s visit left them uncertain and anxious. Vital components of Trump’s Indo-Pacific strategy across economics, security, and values require an explanation in order for countries to better understand what binds the framework together, he said. On North Korea, Russel argued that the regime’s pursuit of nuclear weapons only further endangers their existence rather than providing an enhanced deterrence capability.
Paul Haenle is the director of the Carnegie–Tsinghua Center for Global Policy. Prior to joining Carnegie, he served from June 2007 to June 2009 as the director for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia Affairs on the National Security Council staffs of former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
Daniel Russel is diplomat in residence and a senior fellow at the Asia Society. He previously served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for Asian Affairs on the National Security Council.