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Editorial: Trump should prioritize diplomatic power over military buildup

"What we are witnessing today is the renewal of the American spirit" and "a new chapter of American greatness is now beginning," declared U.S. President Donald Trump in his Feb. 28 address to a joint session of Congress.

His speech was more positive and conciliatory than the one he gave for his inauguration. However, Democratic Party legislators sat stone-faced throughout his speech, while ruling Republican Party lawmakers repeatedly applauded.

The president said, "The time for trivial fights is behind us," and urged U.S. citizens to have "the courage to share the dreams that fill our hearts." However, Trump is the one who has ridiculed traditional American values and the establishment.

President Trump has also attacked some news organizations as "fake news" and enemies of the American people. Democrats obviously cannot easily extend non-partisan cooperation to Trump, and the latest address is highly unlikely to lead to reconciliation between the Trump administration and media outlets.

A split has also emerged within Congress. Female legislators belonging to the Democratic Party attended the president's speech wearing white jackets to protest Trump's discriminatory remarks against women during the election campaign. Dissatisfaction is also smoldering within the Republican Party.

Trump's mention of "one of the largest increases" in defense spending in U.S. history drew the closest public attention. In the fiscal year beginning in October 2017, the U.S. government will increase defense outlays by $54 billion (some 6 trillion yen), or about 10 percent, from the current fiscal year. To cover the increase, the government will significantly slash non-defense spending.

The defense spending boost is based on the Cold War era philosophy that the U.S. should use its military might to deter provocations or attacks by other countries and make sure that it wins any war. The Trump government is reportedly modeled after Republican President Ronald Reagan's administration of the 1980s, which pursued a "strong America."

Trump appears to believe it necessary to boost U.S. military capabilities to counter threats posed by North Korea and the growth of Chinese military power. However, the Trump government attaches excessive importance to building up the U.S. military. It is only natural that about 120 retired generals have sent a letter to Congress partly reading, "Many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone."

Concerns remain as to whether the U.S. would take military action in international crises. U.S. forces had been regarded as a kind of global public property. However, Trump takes the position that the U.S. is no longer the world's policeman, just like his predecessor Barack Obama, and urges U.S. allies to increase their share of military costs.

In his address to Congress, Trump said, "My job is not to represent the world. My job is to represent the United States of America." He appears to be urging allies to increase their military spending instead of just relying on the U.S. while saying that Washington is prepared to boost its own defense outlays. Such an attitude could spur Russia and China to further expand their military power.

Trump's diplomacy in the United Nations already hit a snag as China and Russia vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for sanctions against Syria. Unlike during the Cold War, today's world is marked by a diverse range of competing forces. As such, Trump should enhance international confidence in him and increase his diplomatic prowess to persuade the world to respond to the global situation appropriately.

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