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周方银:特恩布尔与特朗普会面是否会调和澳美关系

2017-05-05

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull pays a visit to the US on Thursday for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump. At the top of the agenda of the two leaders' first face-to-face meeting is North Korea and the consolidation of the US-Australia alliance.

As tensions are simmering on the Korean Peninsula, how the two countries coordinate over the North Korean nuclear crisis has attracted wide attention.

The Trump administration wants to exert maximum pressure on Pyongyang, but doesn't want to pay any price.

This is an unrealistic strategy. It wants all its allies, including Australia, to be more consistent and demonstrate their opposition to North Korea.

However, the influence Australia has on North Korea is limited.

The only significance of Australia's support is that it can help strengthen the impression that the US and its allies have strong determination to solve the North Korean nuclear issue.

Being embroiled in the North Korean crisis will do no good to Australia. Late last month, North Korea has bluntly warned Australia of a possible nuclear strike if Canberra persists in "blindly and zealously toeing the US line."

The visit comes after the unpleasant January phone call between Turnbull and Trump.

After Trump assumed presidency, worries are rising in Australia over uncertainties in its alliance with the US. And the two countries have disagreements on issues such as the refugee deal and the TPP.

The visit shows that Trump is adjusting his foreign policies and making efforts to repair relations with Australia.

However, it's noticeable that Trump will by no means seek to patch things up between the pair at the cost of the US' interests.

The US and Australia need to further consolidate their bilateral relationship. A stable relationship with its allies can benefit the US, including its military. One of Trump's goals in this bilateral meeting is to promote military cooperation between the two sides.

Australia relies on the US for security and regards the US-Australia alliance as a cornerstone for realizing its security interests. Australia expects the US to increase its engagement in the Asia-Pacific region and this is thought to be in line with Australia's interests.

Turnbull said, "My meeting with President Trump will provide an opportunity to reaffirm our alliance and the United States' engagement with the Asia-Pacific."

However, this visit does not mean the Trump administration will resume the pivot to the Asia-Pacific effort, which has been officially pronounced dead.

Trump's priority is not consolidating the status of the US in the Asia-Pacific, but getting more benefits for his country.

Some observers noted that the US-Australia relations have undergone subtle changes under the Trump administration, with China increasing its influence on Australia due to closer economic cooperation. There are increasing voices in Australia calling the country to strengthen its ties with China.

Noticeably, even if there are frictions between the US and Australia, their bilateral relationship remains solid. The two countries are accustomed to developing ties under the framework of alliance and the US-Australia alliance is not likely to be undone.

In the future, the Sino-US-Australian trilateral relationship will depend on the evolution of the three countries' interests, including the Sino-US relations. For its economic interests, Australia needs to strengthen cooperation with China. On security, it needs certain support from the US.

But it's advised not to blindly rely on the US for security as Australia is now in a relatively safe environment and its cooperation with China does not pose any security threats to it.
(The author is a professor at the Guangdong Research Institute for International Strategies.  )



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