South Koreans stay positive, but not about Trump . . .
Wealthy democracies’ views of the U.S. are at their lowest point in nearly 20 years, but the views of America’s two northeast Asian allies – Japan and South Korea – have declined less than those of their Western counterparts. That is according to a 13-country Pew Research poll on perceptions of America’s standing in the world. Confidence in U.S. President Donald Trump is uniformly negative: his ratings ranged from a high of 25 per cent (Japan) to a low of nine per cent (Belgium). South Koreans had the widest gap between their perceptions of the U.S. and its leader: nearly six-in-10 feel favourably toward their American ally, but only 17 per cent approve of Trump.
Differing perceptions of who is leading economically . . .
One of the poll’s most striking results was on the question of who is seen as the world’s leading economic power. South Korea was an outlier: 77 per cent chose the U.S., whereas only 16 per cent selected China. (The other options were the EU and Japan.) The only other country to view the U.S. as the world’s economic leader was Japan, at 53 per cent, compared to 31 per cent who believe China has moved into this role. All other countries chose China, some by considerable margins. That includes Canada (47% China vs. 36% U.S.) and Australia (53% China vs. 34% U.S.), both of which are experiencing considerable strain in their relationships with Beijing.
South Korean anomaly . . .
South Korea’s favourability toward the U.S. may come as a surprise given that President Trump has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about President Moon Jae-in and the U.S.-South Korea alliance. Their views could be shaped by other factors in their immediate neighbourhood, like North Korea’s bellicose statements, a dramatically deteriorating relationship with Japan, and concerns about China’s growing international assertiveness. According to another poll conducted in late 2019, 92 per cent of South Koreans, despite disagreements on some issues, support the U.S. alliance, and three-quarters support the long-term stationing of U.S. troops, believing it strengthens their national security.
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