In his first presidential debate with Democrat Hillary Clinton on Monday night, Republican candidate Donald Trump played loose with the facts onÂ how China is devaluing its currency, made an apparent shift in position on continuing to fund NATO defense of European allies and seemed to call for China to invade North Korea. Washington Post correspondents in Beijing, Brussels and Tokyo analyzed Trump’s statements.
On China’s currency, Trump said:
Â âOur country is in deep trouble, and we donât know what weâre doing, when it comes to devaluation, all countries all over the world, especially China â theyâre the best, the best ever at it. What they are doing to us is a very, very sad thing.”
Beijing correspondent Simon Denyer checked the facts and found that Trump’s view of China is at best “outdated” and at worst showed a “lack of understanding” of what is happening with the Chinese currency.
“Trump is, at best, a little out of date, and he may not have the winning hand he claims,” Denyer wrote.
“Chinaâs currency has actually appreciated rapidly over the past decade, and recently, Chinaâs central bank has been intervening in the markets to bolster the yuan to prevent a depreciation.Â The Bank for International Settlements compiles data on real effective exchange rates.Â It shows Chinaâs real exchange rate has risen by 39.5 percent since the end of 2004. Last year, the International Monetary FundÂ declared that Chinaâs currency was no longer undervalued.”
On continuing to support Â NATO’s defense of European allies, Trump said:
“I’m all for NATO, but I said they have to focus on terror, also. And they’re going to do that. And that was, believe me, not going to get credit for it, but that was largely because of what I was saying and my criticism of NATO.”
But Brussels correspondent Michael Birnbaum says that Trump cannot take credit for that becauseÂ the NATO plans were announced before the July 20 Trump interview with the New York Times in which he questioned U.S. commitments to the alliance. Birnbaum says that Trump essentially did a flip-flop on his former position.
“Trump backed down from hisÂ suggestion over the summer that he would check whether U.S. allies ‘fulfilled their obligation to us’ before coming to their defense âÂ stressing financial obligations,” Birnbaum wrote. “That assertion upended decades of U.S. military doctrine, unsettling allies who count on American guarantees of their security, particularly in Eastern Europe, which is fearful of Russia.”
“The U.S. spends more than 2Â½ times as much on defense as the other NATO nations combined, which has long been a sore point for both Democratic and Republican policymakers who say Europe relies too much on the United States for its defense. Just five of NATOâs 28 nations spend more than the allianceâs recommended level of 2 percent of GDP on defense,” Birnbaum wrote.
On North Korea policy, Trump said:
âYou look at North Korea, we’re doing nothing there. China should solve that problem for us. China should go into North Korea. China is totally powerful as it relates to North Korea.â
Tokyo correspondent Anna Fifield says that while the idea of using China’s influence to curb North Korea is not new, expecting China to invade North Korea is completely unrealistic.
“The idea that China âÂ once North Koreaâs patron, now the closest thing it has to a friend (and itâs not that close) âÂ has leverage over North Korea is not new,” wrote Tokyo correspondent Anna Fifield.
She noted that Beijing has become increasingly angry during the reign of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and has supported increasingly stringent sanctions, but analysts say its ultimate consideration has not changed: It does not want the regime to collapse, sending millions of hungry North Koreans into China and, potentially, the 28,000 American troops stationed in South Korea right up to its border.
“But Trumpâs suggestion that China âgo intoâ North Korea took the exhortations for Beijing to act to a whole new level and is a bit of contrast to his own suggestions over the summer.Â Remember that back in June, Trump suggested he would deal with North Korea by inviting KimÂ to Washington â but not for a state dinner, just for hamburgers around a conference table.”