Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is scheduled to visit Northeast Asia this for the Trump Administration's first major diplomatic effort abroad. Tillerson will visit Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing---mostly to begin undoing the damage wrought by Obama's Pivot to Asia.
The US Corporate Media is ignoring the significance of this trip; mostly out of petty spite because Tillerson refused to wine and dine them and allow taxpayers to pay their travel expenses. The Media Elites argue that they can't afford both free websites and maintaining foreign news bureaus anymore; despite the fact that the BBC and RT News manage to do both on much smaller budgets. So instead of informing the public of geopolitical developments, we get on-air breakdowns like this.
Thanks also to the Corporate Media, few Americans have any idea just what a foreign-policy disaster Obama created in Asia. The situation that Obama inherited from Bush and the one that Trump inherited from Obama are radically different. When Bush left office in 2009, the US was the undisputed power in the Pacific. Today, China has the upper hand; with Russia and Japan rapidly closing in on our 2nd-place position. Bush had brought North Korea to the negotiating table; Obama tried to force regime-change there and ended up causing it in South Korea instead. And we're just talking about North Pacific disasters here; Trump still has to deal with the South Pacific where Obama made matters even worse.
The Trump Administration, though, can bring American power and prestige back to the Pacific, but the situation isn't going to turn around overnight. Tillerson's challenge is going to be to assess the situation and offer the countries he's visiting a new deal. President Trump has spoken of a rising confidence and optimism in America; this is what his Administration needs to impart to Asia if the US is going to be a global partner there. Each area has some unique issues.
JAPAN: Tillerson's first stop is Tokyo. Obama's mismanagement of policy with Japan has led to a resurgence there of neo-Fascist Imperialism and militarism. Japan's female Defense Minister---an admitted Nazi sympathizer---boasted yesterday that the Japanese Empire now has the world's 6th largest military. Japan is also suspected of supporting terrorist movements abroad; and human rights have eroded during the last eight years. The government is extending political tenures and press censorship will increasing unaccountable spying and police powers.
Pro: The US still has considerable economic and military leverage over Japan.
Con: The Far Right is increasingly entrenched in power and the opposition parties are deeply anti-American.
Challenge: Tillerson is going to have to put his foot down on the Japanese leadership and remind them that the post-WW2 paradigms are still in effect. Okinawa is another problem he's going to have to address. A good solution may be to set up a summit between American, Japanese, and Okinawan leaders to address the ongoing problems around the US base there.
KOREA: Tillerson next goes to Seoul where he'll be obliged to meet with an Interim Government; the president whom Obama supported having been forcibly ejected from office last week after impeachment trials. To say that Obama left the Korean Peninsula in a mess is an understatement.
Pro: (NK) Most of North Korea's militaristic posturing is bluff; the country is much weaker and more willing to negotiate than its leadership lets on.
(SK) America still has some economic and military leverage over South Korea.
Con: Neither side likes nor trusts the US very much.
Challenge: About the best that Tillerson can hope for here is not to make matters any worse. He should offer support to the new South Korean and maybe win some support by encouraging them to 'drain the swamp' as well. As to North Korea, he needs to abandon the hardline Obama approach and try a more 'carrot-and-stick' model. President Kim has said on many occasions that he respects (and probably fears) Trump, so he may be more willing to negotiate if offered something in return.
CHINA: China right now is holding most of the cards, but Trump's main advantage is that President Xi is somewhat more moderate than his predecessors. Xi also has a personality and temperament very similar to Trump's: both are nationalistic but both are business-oriented people.
Pro: Obama's downfall in Asia was so sudden and so complete that China was largely caught unprepared---especially militarily---to capitalize fully on their windfall.
Con: China has been expending considerable energy during the American transition of power to correct the deficiency above. China is also a one-party state and Xi's main opposition are neo-Maoist hardliners.
Challenge: Tillerson is going to have negotiate from a position of weakness; but needs to impress on China that cooperation and not competitiveness is mutually beneficial to both countries. The long-term goal here will be to lock China into fairer and greater trade deals---and possibly joint military cooperation that will reduce the hardline-faction's influence. De-militarizing the region can free up resources that both countries desperately need.
In short, undoing the disastrous Asian Pivot is a long-term problem, but not insolvable. All of Trump's vaunted negotiating skills and Tillerson's business acumen are going to have to brought into play to fix the damage alone. The key here is not follow Obama's course in any way, shape, or form. A period of peace and free trade is what the Pacific Rim needs most of all.