Wed, Oct 31, 2012 - Page 3 News List

US storm puts an end to debate on Asia

STORMY POLITICS:The latest polls give Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney a slight lead, but it is looking like the storm may become a deciding factor

By William Lowther  /  Staff reporter in WASHINGTON

Hurricane Sandy has thrown the US presidential election into havoc, pushing foreign policy issues into the background and almost certainly ending further campaign debate on Asia.

The storm is dominating the end days of the campaign with both sides changing strategies to concentrate on weather-related reaction.

US President Barack Obama and his Republican rival, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, were canceling many live appearances and speeches and TV advertisements.

“They are likely glued to the weather coverage, trying to figure out which way this hurricane will make the election winds blow,” Princeton University history professor Julian Zelizer said.

Issues, such as trade with China, are unlikely to influence undecided voters anything like as much as the way candidates handle the so-called “Frankenstorm” now lashing the US’ east coast.

“The crisis offers an opportunity for Obama to act presidential in a way for which some voters are thirsting and to demonstrate the kind of command that has often been lacking,” Zelizer said.

Meanwhile, Romney must watch to see what people think of Obama’s response “because any statement from him could easily be seen as political and offer little evidence of his own ability to lead.”

Obama has canceled events in swing states to monitor the storm from the White House.

Romney, who has also stopped traveling, has turned his offices in North Carolina, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia into collection centers for storm relief supplies.

The latest polls give Romney a slight lead, but the race remains far too close to call with commentators increasingly wondering if the storm might become the deciding factor.

With the storm taking over election rhetoric, it appears that the final words on Taiwan in this campaign came last week at the “China Policy Debate” organized by the Committee of 100 and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington.

National security adviser to the Obama campaign Jeffrey Bader and co-chair of Romney’s Asia-Pacific region working group Aaron Friedberg were asked what their candidates would do about arms sales to Taiwan in view of improved cross-strait relations.

Bader said that the Obama administration had put a great deal of emphasis on building a strong relationship with the leadership in Taiwan.

“We have handled the relationship well in the sense of giving confidence to [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九),” he said.

He said that a decision had not yet been made on selling long-requested F-16C/D aircraft to Taiwan and that the administration would be guided by the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the Department of Defense.

Friedberg said that Taiwan faced a growing challenge to its ability to defend itself given China’s sustained buildup aimed directed at it.

“Governor Romney has specifically supported the sale of the F-16C/Ds because that is what the Taiwanese have requested,” he said.

“The way that Taiwanese domestic politics have played out thus far [has] led to a smoothing in the relationship with the mainland, but I don’t think there is any guarantee that is going to continue to be the case,” Friedberg said.

“Taiwan is a democracy and there are many people with different views. I don’t think there are many that actually support independence, but there are those who would support policies that are different from those that are currently being pursued,” he said.

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