US foreign policy

Donald Trump sought to reset his flailing candidacy with what his campaign billed as a major economic address on Monday in Detroit, with the property developer and former reality TV star promising to slash regulation, cut taxes in a “tax revolution” and revive manufacturing through an “America First” economic policy.

Trump’s aim was to attract Republicans who have been repelled by some of his xenophobic rhetoric and erratic impulses. But an open letter signed by 50 senior Republican national security officials illustrates just how difficult that may be. In it, Republican former heads of the CIA, NSA and homeland security, among others, write, “none of us will ever vote for Donald Trump” because he “lacks the character, values and experience” to be president and “would put at risk our country’s national security and wellbeing”. Read more

It must be hard being Ted Cruz. Just when you assume there could not be more people who dislike you, your own support base turns on you. The Texas senator’s decision not to endorse Donald Trump as the Republican candidate on Wednesday evening highlighted the divisions that have been simmering in Cleveland. Mr Cruz has the dubious honour of being the first person to be jeered at this convention — after Hillary Clinton, of course — and his wife, Heidi, had to be escorted from the arena.

Depending on your perspective, Cruz’s address was petulant or noble — given the personal attacks he has endured from Trump. He attempted to address those concerns head-on with the Texas GOP delegation on Wednesday morning, explaining he was not a “servile puppy dog” to Trump. But there were plenty of detractors present. (Read our report on Cruz’s clash with his own supporters here — and watch this video of Texans opining on what he has done.) Read more

Outside the perimeter of the Republican National Convention, protesters have beenmaking the case against Donald Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico. Inside the convention, Marco Gutierrez, a 42 year-old Mexican-American mortgage broker, has found himself preaching a more unusual message: “Latinos for Trump”.

“He’s got life experience, knowledge and an ability to restore the economy. I’ve seen a lot of Latinos lose their savings. Donald Trump brings hope to businesses,” Mr Gutierrez said in an interview. Read more

On the eve of his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Donald Trump has rattled allies in Europe and Asia with an extensive interview about his foreign policy worldview with the New York Times. Here are the most striking passages from the transcript:

1) The US and Nato Most of the attention has focused on Trump’s views on whether the US would defend a Nato ally under attack from Russia: Read more

Donald Trump has disappointed millions of people in America – and probably the head of every television network who hoped to make a killing – by deciding not to debate with Bernie Sanders. On Thursday he revealed that the campaigns were in discussions about a debate, which would have been a huge television hit. But on Friday he reversed course, saying it would be “inappropriate” because Sanders has no way to beat Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. Read more

Every presidential nominee over the past four decades has released his tax returns for all to devour, but Donald Trump says his effective tax rate is “none of your business”. That snippy response to an ABC interviewer’s question dominated the presidential news.

He did say “you’ll see it when I release it’, then added something that has got less attention: “I fight very hard to pay as little tax as possible.” That’s hardly unusual coming from a canny billionaire, but it carries a certain irony as Trump doesn’t seem to think it’s OK for other businesses to do the same thing. Read more

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There are few things as American as Budweiser, even though there are many craft breweries across the US that produce beer that this Irishman finds more palatable. But the legendary brand is undergoing a temporary makeover by renaming itself as “America” for the summer months. The push to tap into the patriotic mood as the US election approaches is a novel way to jump on the Trump bandwagonRead more

Can world powers make common cause against Isis?
France has been courting US and Russian support for a war on Isis in the wake of the Paris terror attacks. But while Russia and Turkey, a Nato member, claim to be fighting the same foe, they themselves saw armed combat this week when Turkey shot down a Russian jet on its border with Syria. Mark Vandevelde asks Gideon Rachman and Geoff Dyer whether world powers are capable of making common cause against Isis.

Hillary Clinton Testifies Before House Select Committee On Benghazi Attacks

Hillary Clinton faced her next big challenge in her quest for the 2016 US presidential race with an appearance before a Republican led congressional committee to testify about the 2012 Benghazi attack that left four Americans dead, including US ambassador Christopher Stevens. Barney Jopson followed the action from Washington with Demetri Sevastopulo, DC Bureau Chief and Emiliya Mychasuk, US Online News Editor. A link to the live stream of the hearing is here  

Britain has long built its foreign policy around a special relationship with the US. The coming week will witness an attempt by the UK government to build another special relationship — this time with the People’s Republic of China. The government of David Cameron will be straining every sinew to honour President Xi Jinping, during his five-day state visit to the UK. The Chinese leader will be the guest of honour at a banquet at Buckingham Palace, he will give a speech at Westminster, he will spend time with the prime minister at Chequers and will travel to Manchester with the chancellor of the exchequer.

President Xi’s visit has been meticulously planned to provide images that will play well in China. But all this pomp could well be disrupted by some unplanned circumstances. The US Navy has let it be known that, over the next few days, it intends to challenge China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea. Beijing has been bolstering these claims in recent months, by “land reclamation” exercises that have created artificial islands — some of which now host airstrips. The Americas are expected to sail within 12 miles of these new islands — to make the point that they do not accept that China has established new territorial waters in the Pacific Ocean. Read more

What the TPP means for US-Asia ties
The US reached agreement this week with Japan and 10 other Pacific Rim economies on a Trans-Pacific Partnership. Gideon Rachman discusses the scope of the pact and what it will mean for those who have signed up, and those left out, with Shawn Donnan and Geoff Dyer

By Gideon Rachman
American and Chinese presidents do not really know how to talk to each other. They are like computers running on different operating systems.” That was the verdict once offered to me by a US official, who has watched many US-China summits from close quarters.

By Gideon Rachman
Muslims have replaced Hispanics as the focus of verbal attacks on the US campaign trail with Donald Trump shifting his anti-immigrant focus to people of the Islamic faith.

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The 2nd Republican presidential debate saw Donald Trump face off against 10 other GOP contenders for the White House, as the challengers tried to gain ground against the bombastic billionaire, who has surprised the pundits by leading the field by a long way. Carly Fiorina made her debut in the big league, joining the main debate for the first time. 

Barack Obama’s first trip to Beijing as president in 2009 took place at a moment of great weakness in the US during a deep recession, and apparent strength in China, which had rapidly engineered a return to growth.

The roles seem oddly reversed ahead of Xi Jinping’s state visit to Washington later this month. In contrast with steady if unspectacular US growth, Chinese leaders are struggling on multiple fronts, to calm a wobbly stock market and maintain output in a slowing economy. Read more

If you think that getting fast-track authority from Congress to negotiate trade agreements is hard, just wait for the deal that it is designed to pass.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) between the US, Japan and 10 other economies in Asia and Latin America has run into a barrage of criticism. Some of it is probably justified; some of it is not. The problem is that we don’t really know.

The governments involved, and particularly the US administration, have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the negotiating texts secret. Even senators and congressmen are only allowed to look at them in a secure location without taking away notes.

 Read more

  © Getty Images

Have the US and its allies in Asia reached a tipping point in their relations with China? The question posed by US China scholar, David Lampton, in a speech in Shanghai in March looks disturbingly prescient after a whirl of diplomatic and security offensives in recent weeks in the region.

The US and Japan substantially upgraded their defence alliance in a high profile summit meeting in Washington earlier this month. Japan, in turn, held its first naval exercises with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea. This week, the US announced (and then later denied) it would station B-1 bombers in northern Australia, also with an eye on balancing China in the region.

Then, just in time for John Kerry’s weekend visit to Beijing, the Pentagon made it known it was contemplating limited military options in the form of naval patrols and surveillance flights in contested areas in the South China Sea to reinforce its opposition to Chinese actions. Read more

Obama seeks to cement Japan ties
Siona Jenkins, Gideon Rachman and Lindsay Whipp discuss the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Washington as the US seeks to cement defence and trade ties with Japan, a key ally in its bid to push back against growing Chinese influence in Asia.

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (Getty)

Over the past few weeks I’ve asked several western officials whether Saudi Arabia’s bombing campaign in Yemen signalled a fundamental change in Riyadh’s behaviour. Should we expect a far more aggressive kingdom under recently installed King Salman, or is Yemen a one-off war to blow off steam? Are we facing a new Saudi Arabia?

The answer has been consistent: we don’t know yet.

Early this morning, at the curious hour of 4 am Riyadh time, King Salman went some way towards providing an answer. In a bombshell announcement, he sacked crown prince Muqrin, who had been close to the late King Abdullah, and elevated Muqrin’s deputy, the security-minded interior minister Mohammed bin Nayef, to crown prince. More importantly – and controversially – he appointed his favourite son, the young Mohammed bin Salman, as next in line for the throne after bin Nayef. Read more

By Richard McGregor

Shinzo Abe’s visit to the US this week is by any measure a significant moment. Japan’s prime minister will with President Barack Obama consecrate revised guidelines for the US-Japan security treaty, described by one close observer of Japan as the longest surviving alliance between great powers “since the 1648 Peace of Westphalia”.

The pair will also oversee the final negotiations of one of the largest trade pacts in two decades that will bring together 12 Asia-Pacific countries. Finally, Mr Abe will become the first Japanese leader to address a joint session of Congress.

In a week of landmarks, then, it may be surprising that much of the focus ahead of Mr Abe’s visit is whether he will “apologise” for Japan’s role in the second world war, which ended in Tokyo’s crushing defeat nearly 70 years ago. Read more