U.S. looks to reassure allies as concerns
grow about American global role
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[June 05, 2017]
By Idrees Ali and Colin Packham
SYDNEY (Reuters) - Senior U.S officials
said on Monday the United States, under President Donald Trump, was
committed to the region, reassuring nervous global partners even as it
received criticism for pulling out of major a climate pact.
Global leaders have said there was growing mistrust of the Trump
administration, especially because of his withdrawal from the
Trans-Pacific Partnership on trade and from the Paris climate accord.
Trump's "America First" rhetoric and expectations that he would
concentrate on a domestic agenda has stoked fears of a retreat from a
traditional U.S. security role that has underpinned the region for
But U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the Trump administration
should be judged for its actions and not words.
"I hope the fact that we are here demonstrates that is certainly not
this administration's view or intention to somehow put at arm's length
the other important allies and partners in the world," Tillerson told
reporters in Sydney.
"That's why we're here ... That's why we engage with our counterparts,"
He is in Sydney for an annual conference along with U.S. Defense
Secretary Jim Mattis, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph
Dunford and the head of Pacific Command Admiral Harry Harris.
Diplomatic ties were stained between the United States and Australia
this year following a row over asylum seekers when Trump described a
refugee swap arrangement as a "dumb deal" on Twitter.
Despite the public dispute, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop
said the nature of the bilateral relationship extends beyond the
"We deal with the president, with his cabinet, and with the U.S.
administration on what they do, what they achieve, what their strategies
are, and how we can work together," Bishop said.
While Australia's government said it has not lost faith in the United
States as a global leader, the decision to leave the Paris Climate
agreement has drawn a wave of global criticism.
Speaking for the first time on the decision, Tillerson appeared to
distance himself from it, saying that it was Trump's "judgment" that the
climate pact did not serve the American people.
ENGAGING WITH ASIA-PACIFIC
With growing fears that the United States could not be relied on to
maintain a buffer against China's assertiveness, several Asian nations
have bolstered informal alliances among themselves.
[to top of second column]
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson speaks at a press conference at the
Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN) at
Government House in Sydney, Australia, June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Jason
Although reiterating U.S. commitment to Asia, Tillerson said China
should do more on the issue of North Korea, which has stepped up its
nuclear and missile programs in defiance of U.S. pressure and U.N.
North Korea has become a security priority for Washington since it
vowed to accelerate its nuclear and missile programmers and to
develop a nuclear-tipped missile capable of hitting the U.S.
Tillerson also said the United States could not allow China to use
its economic power to "buy its way out of other problems, whether
it's militarizing islands in the South China Sea or failing to put
appropriate pressure on North Korea".
Reacting to his comments, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua
Chunying said: "We hope the relevant side can fully respect and
support the efforts of countries in the region to maintain peace and
stability in the South China Sea, and play a constructive role
rather than the opposite".
Some U.S. officials have also expressed concern about the growth of
Islamic State and the return of foreign fighters in the region and
said it is one reason the United States will continue to remain
Authorities in the region have urged greater cooperation to counter
the fallout from a raging battle with Islamic State-linked militants
in the southern Philippines, the biggest warning yet that the
ultra-radical group is building a base in Southeast Asia.
The region is home to 600 million people and includes Indonesia,
which has the world's highest number of Muslims. Authorities in both
Indonesia and Malaysia, also Muslim-majority, have said thousands of
their citizens are sympathizers of Islamic State and hundreds are
believed to have traveled to Syria to join the militant group.
(Reporting by Idrees Ali and Colin Packham; Additional reporting by
Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Jane Wardell and Paul Tait)
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