Editorial: Deep concerns in Hiroshima over new U.S. president

Has there ever been a newly-inaugurated U.S. president who has prompted such anxiety rather than raising hope? Such is the case with Donald Trump, now the 45th president of the United States.

Right after taking office, Mr. Trump announced moves that include withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPP) and building a wall on the border with Mexico. He apparently seeks to impress the public with a “transformative” new administration.

Protectionism is championed

If the new president’s protectionist ideas and exclusivism rhetoric, voiced to date, become reflected in real policy, the international community will surely be facing chaotic times. Can this man truly lead the world’s largest superpower? We can’t help but fear that Mr. Trump will be walking us up a rocky road.

In his inaugural address, he revealed the thrust of his vision as “America first.” His protectionist bent was conveyed in such statements as “we must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries destroying our jobs” and “buy American and hire American.”

To this day, the strength of the United States has been derived from progress fueled through a history of immigration. If the country now changes course and begins viewing trading partners as enemy nations, this could turn the current world order upside down.

In addition, Mr. Trump denounced existing politics by saying that “a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government,” what seems to be an intentional effort to stoke divisions and animosity in society. On the day of his inauguration, many people took to the streets and police responded to the demonstrators with tear gas.

Policies not well considered

It is vital that we face this situation head on by demonstrating the stance of mending conflict in our world.

Along with Mr. Trump’s inaugural speech, his administration’s basic policies, announced afterward, have caused wide repercussions. The new president has said that his administration will begin renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico, in addition to withdrawing from the TPP. He also indicated that he would scrap the action plan proposed by the previous administration in which regulations for thermal electric power stations would be pursued to help address global warming. Both these moves run directly counter to the policies set by former President Obama.

The policies of the new administration, however, will produce serious consequences. For instance, the goal of abolishing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) has already been put in motion by an executive order Mr. Trump promptly signed. While Mr. Trump has said that he would propose an alternative health care plan “right away,” no specific policy proposal has yet been announced. Under these circumstances, over 20 million people in the United States could return to a state of lacking health insurance coverage.

If the new president is only eager to tear down what the previous administration built, such actions are irresponsible.

Mr. Trump’s vision, which emphasizes the benefits to national interests over international cooperation, seems akin to business activities that are guided only by profit and loss.

But if the United States no longer will play a leadership role in the fields of trade, economics, and diplomacy, what will become of the world?

In particular, attention has been drawn to the relationship between the United States and Russia, the world’s other superpower. With Mr. Trump so eager to improve relations with President Vladimir Putin, he may condone Russia’s desire to expand its territory, as symbolized by the annexation of the Crimean Peninsula.

Further, the new president could well be willfully stirring a showdown with China by suggesting a review of the “one China policy.” If Mr. Trump moves forward with his “deal-making diplomacy” to advance the national interests of his own country, this will rock the order and governing of the world we have established to date.

Obama’s ideals must be sustained

At the same time, what is most worrying to the people of Hiroshima about Mr. Trump, topping this long list of concerns, is his authority over the U.S. nuclear arsenal. His administration could become the stark opposite of the Obama administration, which sought to advance a world without nuclear weapons.

Though Mr. Trump mentioned his support for strengthening the U.S. nuclear arsenal at the end of 2016, early in this new year he has shown a proactive stance concerning nuclear disarmament negotiations with Russia, by linking the situation involving Ukraine with this issue. His statements, though, appear improvised and haphazard. If he views nuclear weapons as a bargaining tool for diplomacy, this is an egregious position. It can be said that Mr. Trump does not understand the efforts made for nuclear disarmament on the part of past U.S. presidents since the end of the Cold War.

We are concerned that the unilateralism adopted by the Trump administration could lead to a rise in military tensions and military growth, contrary to the stated intentions of the administration. At the very least, Mr. Trump must assume the mantle of Mr. Obama’s ideals when it comes to nuclear policy.

(Originally published on January 22, 2017)