Quoted: Voice of America on Trump-Turnbull Call
While it's not unusual for allies to disagree, this dispute is unusual because it occurred publicly, at the beginning of Trump's presidency, and in such a public way, says Mintaro Oba, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia.
“Points of tension sometimes happen in alliances, but generally diplomats take a lot of care to resolve those disagreements through private channels first, to avoid escalating it to the highest level,” Oba added.
Any rift between the U.S. and its Asian allies could be patched up by new Defense Secretary James Mattis, who is visiting South Korea and Japan this week, in part to soothe those countries' concerns about U.S. support.
During his meetings with security officials, Mattis is likely to be questioned about Trump's repeated threats to pull U.S. troops out of Japan and South Korea unless Seoul and Tokyo substantially increase their contributions to the deployment costs.
But Mattis' message of reassurance risks being undermined by Trump's unpredictability, says Oba. “Trump is thinking in terms of The Art of the Deal [the title of one of Trump's books], and he values unpredictability and tension within his internal staff. But what our allies value is commitment, especially in the face of the tremendous security challenges they face.”