Japan and South Korea – US allies and home to a combined 82,000 US troops – see the United States as a “major threat” to global security. The Koreans fear the US more than North Korea, and more than anyone fears Russia.
The world is a fearful place, a new Pew Research survey has found. Cyber attacks, Islamic terrorism, economic instability, and climate chaos are all considered threats to global security. However, the power and influence of the United States are keeping more people than ever before up at night, even as President Trump withdraws troops from Syria and boasts of strides towards peace in North Korea.
In 2013, only one-quarter of people across 22 nations saw the US as a threat to their countries. That figure jumped to 38 percent in 2017 and rose further to 45 percent last year.
Among America’s allies, the results are striking. 67 percent of South Koreans view the US as a major threat to their security, level with the amount who view North Korea as a threat. In Japan, 66 percent view the US as a threat, while 73 percent fear North Korea. Of the 26 nations surveyed, the Japanese and South Koreans are the most fearful of US power, ahead of Mexico at 64 percent.
The survey was published on Sunday, as US President Donald Trump gears up for a second meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in two weeks’ time. Trump has hailed the meeting as “advancing the cause of peace,” despite the fact that the US intelligence community concluded recently that Kim remains “unlikely” to give up his nuclear weapons.
For South Koreans, the potential for conflict between the US and North Korea makes the two nations equal threats. The North reportedly has tens of thousands of artillery pieces aimed at the southern capital of Seoul, ready to obliterate the city should the two countries’ frozen war turn hot again. Likewise, any US response to North Korea (the “fire and fury” Trump once promised to meet any northern aggression with) would have massive consequences for the South.
For the Japanese, the threat presented by the US is different than that of the Kim regime, Asian Studies professor Kirsti Govella told the Japan Times. While North Korea’s now halted missile tests posed a direct military threat to Japan, “the threat posed by the US is probably seen as emanating from its recent policy instability toward the region, which creates very different kinds of challenges for Japan,” Govella said.
This policy instability was marked by Trump’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Japan played a leading role in negotiating. On the military front, Trump’s ‘America First’ foreign policy has left Asian allies questioning whether they can rely on the US for their security needs, Japanese professor Tetsuo Kotani told the Japan Times.
“Many Asian countries feel the same anxiety,” Kotani said. “Unless future US presidents show more willingness and perceive responsibility toward the rules-based international order, the damage would not be reversible.”
The Russian menace?
Further afield, 13 countries rank climate change as the number one threat to their security, while eight fear terrorist attacks from Islamic State militants. Four, including the US, fear cyber attacks from other countries.
Despite the Western media’s best efforts, only one country surveyed considers Russian power and influence a threat. Poland, which has a long and complicated history of animosity with Moscow for centuries, lists Russia as the number one threat.
Moreover, 17 countries consider Washington a bigger threat than Moscow. Among these countries are several US allies, including Australia, Canada, France, and Germany.