If America wants to repair its regional alliances, it must first show it can deal with Beijing from a position of strength. Small and medium-sized nations need assurances they won’t be used merely as a tool to counter China, to be discarded the moment it suits the US.
Asian nations have been disappointed by Washington’s lack of leverage over Beijing. There is a view that Donald Trump is adopting a hardline posture towards China for the upcoming presidential election, and might abandon Asian allies once victory is secured.
The failure in Hanoi was both bureaucratic and cultural, leaving the distrust between the two to be resolved on the final day of talks. That it was not will have long-term consequences.
Despite its denials, China is not above mixing politics with economics to gain an upper hand in international relations. Neither is America under Trump. It’s safe to say the North Korea nuclear issue is a consideration.
North Korea’s leader needs to produce economic results and sees diplomacy as a way of getting them, with or without the United States’ cooperation.