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(4th LD) Trump vows to reinforce alliances while putting 'America First'

All News 05:33 January 21, 2017

(ATTN: RECASTS throughout; UPDATES with White House outlining major policies; TRIMS)
By Chang Jae-soon

WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Donald Trump pledged Friday to "reinforce all the alliances," even as he expressed highly critical views of America's security commitments overseas in an inauguration speech laced with repeated promises to put "America First" ahead of everything else.

"For many decades, we've enriched foreign industries at the expense of American industries, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. We've defended other nations' borders while refusing to defend our own," Trump said in his inauguration address after taking the oath of office as America's 45th president.

"From his day forward, it's going to be only America First, America First. Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries," he said.

"America First" was the No. 1 theme in the inaugural address delivered before all of his living predecessors and huge crowds of supporters and well-wishers that stretched down the National Mall leading to the Washington Monument.

Trump said the U.S. will seek "friendship and goodwill" with other countries, but "with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first."

"We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow," he said. "We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -– and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth."

(4th LD) Trump vows to reinforce alliances while putting 'America First' - 1

Trump also said he will "protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies, and destroying our jobs."

"America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams," he said.

Trump's repeated emphasis on "America First" and his critical views of the U.S. helping with defenses of other countries raise concern that his administration could be tough in carrying out Trump's campaign pledge to have allies to pay more for American defense support.

During the campaign, he portrayed alliances and U.S. security commitments as something the U.S. can abandon unless they make economic sense and urged allies to pay more for American troops stationed in those countries to help protect them.

Since his election, however, Trump has toned down the campaign rhetoric and filled some key posts with people valuing the alliances, such as incoming Defense Secretary James Mattis, who said during his confirmation hearing last week that the U.S. is "stronger when we uphold our treaty obligations.

That, however, doesn't mean the new U.S. government will go easy on its demand for allies to pay more.

Incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in his confirmation hearing last week that the U.S. "cannot look the other way at allies that do not meet their obligations." Mattis also said that while the U.S. fulfills its treaty obligations, he expects "our allies and partners to uphold their obligations as well."

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Trump took office at a time when the U.S. has been struggling with a number of hard-to-handle issues, including the militant group Islamic State, an increasingly provocative North Korea and a host of problems to solve at home, including immigration reforms, job creation and economic inequality.

Of them, many officials and experts have singled out the North as the No. 1 challenge Trump faces.

The communist nation has sharply ratcheted up tensions in the runup to his inauguration, with leader Kim Jong-un saying in his New Year's Day address that the regime has entered the final stage of preparations to test-fire an intercontinental ballistic missile.

It was an apparent threat that the North is close to developing a nuclear-tipped missile capable of striking the continental U.S., after five underground nuclear blasts and a series of ballistic missile or rocket launches over the past decade.

In response, Trump vowed to stop the North from mastering such ICBM capabilities, saying that the North's development of a nuclear missile capable of striking the U.S. "won't happen," though he didn't elaborate how he would stop it.

North Korea appears to be unfazed by Trump's warning.

Officials in Seoul said earlier this week that the South and the U.S. have picked up signs that the North has readied two ICBMs for apparent test-firing, an indication that the threatened test could come earlier than expected.

Reflecting the sense of seriousness of the threats, Trump's White House said on its website outlining major policies that the new administration will "develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea."

Trump and aides have not outlined what their North Korea policy will look like. But it will likely center on pressuring China to exercise more leverage as the North's main food and energy provider to rein in the provocative regime.

The relationship with China is also where one of the biggest foreign policy changes is expected.

Trump has shown deeply negative views of China, repeatedly accusing Beijing of unfair trade and currency practices hurting American businesses, and slamming the country for failing to exercise enough pressure on North Korea to rein in the regime.

He has even raised questions why the U.S. should stick to the "one-China" policy of diplomatically recognizing only Beijing, not Taiwan, and spoke by phone with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, the first time in decades that a U.S. president or president-elect has done so, in a breach of the decadeslong diplomatic tradition.

Free trade could suffer a setback after Trump takes office.

On Friday, the White House reaffirmed Trump's pledge to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a massive free trade pact signed among 12 Asia-Pacific countries, and to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Unless a fair deal is reached in renegotiations, Trump will withdraw from NAFTA, it said.

The Trump administration will also "crack down on those nations that violate trade agreements and harm American workers in the process," the White House said.

(4th LD) Trump vows to reinforce alliances while putting 'America First' - 3

Trump began the day with a prayer service at a church near the White House. Earlier in the morning, he tweeted, "It all begins today! I will see you at 11:00 A.M. for the swearing-in. THE MOVEMENT CONTINUES - THE WORK BEGINS!"

Trump and his wife, Melania, then headed to the White House and met with President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama before Trump and Obama travelled together in a presidential limousine to the swearing-in ceremony.

The 70-year-old billionaire and former reality TV show host is the first U.S. president ever to be elected outside of the political establishment. His stunning victory in the November election reflected deep yearnings for change among American voters.

Under the catchphrase "Make America Great Again!" Trump campaigned on pledges to break the status quo, including by bringing jobs back from overseas, enforcing massive border control, and handling foreign relations with an "America First" principle, centering on putting U.S. interests ahead of anything else.

But his unconventional, unorthodox approach to long-undisputed values, such as alliances and security commitments, have put the rest of the world on edge as to where the United States will go under the former real-estate businessman.

jschang@yna.co.kr
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