In a rebuke to U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and the GOP, the Democratic Party’s policy platform has touted Washington’s network of alliances — including its defense pact with Japan — as “a source of tremendous strategic advantage.”
The Democratic Party platform, set to be ratified at the party’s convention that opened Monday in Philadelphia, trains it guns on Trump, saying that the U.S. “cannot walk away” from its “position of global leadership.”
“We believe that we are stronger when we work with our partners and allies, rather than try to go it alone,” it reads. “Our global network of alliances is not a burden — it is a source of tremendous strategic advantage.”
Railing against Trump, the charter issues a blistering attack on his stance on global security affairs, including his positions on military alliances and nuclear weapons.
“From the Asia-Pacific to the Indian Ocean, we will deepen our relationships in the region with Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand,” the document says.
“We will honor our historic commitment to Japan,” it adds.
Critics, including Clinton, have assailed Trump for saying he would re-examine Washington’s security treaties with Japan and South Korea.
Trump has said allies like Tokyo and Seoul should pay more toward their defense — even warning that he could withdraw U.S. troops from bases in Japan if Tokyo refuses to cough up more cash.
This has stoked concern in Japan, South Korea and other Asian nations, including those fearful of China’s growing assertiveness in the region.
“American leadership is essential to keeping us safe and our economy growing. … It would be a dangerous mistake for America to abandon our responsibilities,” the platform reads.
“We cannot, as Donald Trump suggests, cede the mantle of leadership for global peace and security to others who will not have our best interests in mind.”
According to the Democratic platform, there has never been a major party candidate “less qualified or less fit for the office” of president or to be commander-in-chief than Donald Trump.
“He wants more countries to have nuclear weapons,” it reads.
Trump has suggested that as president he would even allow Japan and South Korea to go nuclear in the event U.S. forces are withdrawn and along with them Washington’s nuclear umbrella.
Japan’s atomic weapons policy has been guided by the so-called three nonnuclear principles of not possessing, or manufacturing nuclear weapons, nor permitting their introduction into Japanese territory.
Security experts warn that such a shift in posture by Tokyo and Seoul would undermine Washington’s deterrence capabilities and presence in the region in the face of China’s rising assertiveness and North Korea’s growing missile and nuclear weapons development programs.
More worryingly, they say, it could also prompt an all-out nuclear arms race in Asia.
The Democratic Party has voiced its commitment to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and to eventually ridding the planet of them — a top goal of President Barack Obama.
“Donald Trump encourages the spread of nuclear weapons across Asia and the Middle East, which would weaken the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT),” the party’s charter reads.
“We will strengthen the NPT, push for the ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, and stop the spread of loose nuclear material.”
Democrats also had harsh words for Trump’s claims that he is willing to talk to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to try to halt Pyongyang’s nuclear program, something that would be a major shift in U.S. policy toward the isolated nation.
“Trump praises North Korea’s dictator; threatens to abandon our treaty allies, Japan and South Korea; and encourages the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region,” the platform says. “This approach is incoherent and rather than solving a global crisis, would create a new one.”
Analysts say Trump, with his radical policies, makes a inviting target for Democrats.
“This is all about Donald Trump,” said Brian Harding of the Center for American Progress in Washington.
“Until the rise of Donald Trump, I would have called the U.S.-Japan alliance one of the handful of truly bipartisan issues in Washington,” Harding said.
Democrats also voiced strong support for regional, global and multilateral institutions, a stark contrast from the more isolationist approach espoused by Trump.
“Democrats believe that global institutions — most prominently the United Nations — and multilateral organizations have a powerful role to play and are an important amplifier of American strength and influence,” the document says.
While reforms of some organizations are needed, Democrats say it would be reckless to turn away from a U.S.-built international system that has provided “decades of stability and economic growth.”
On trade, the party has taken a more cautious approach. Wary of backlash among voters who appear to be riding a wave of anti-globalism, it notes that while trade deals — including the Trans-Pacific Partnership pact — could be beneficial they must meet the standards set by American workers.
“These are the standards Democrats believe must be applied to all trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP),” the document says.
According to Brad Glosserman, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, this reluctance to endorse the TPP reflects the strength of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ candidacy.
“He pulled the party to the left and forced Clinton to abandon her support for the agreement,” Glosserman said. “My sense is that Clinton wants TPP to pass as she understands that it is not just a trade deal but a strategic agreement.
“The bottom line, though, is that the party plank reflects the success of the progressives and Sanders during the campaign,” he added.
Experts, however, caution about reading too much into the platforms, noting that while they provide guidance, presidential nominees aren’t bound by them.
Such charters provide “sustenance to the party faithful and a quick answer to questions about where the party leans,” said Glosserman. But “the nominee doesn’t use the platform to guide policy when contemplating what to do. He or she goes with his or her own preferences.”
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