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Trump poised to outline new 'America first' national security strategy

US president Donald Trump PICTURE: Andrew Harnik/AP
By Jonathan Lemire and Hope Yen

US president Donald Trump is poised to outline a new "America first" national security strategy which could sharply alter the country's relationship with the rest of the world.

The plan envisions nations in a perpetual state of competition, reverses Obama-era warnings on climate change, and de-emphasises multinational agreements which have dominated American foreign policy since the Cold War.

The plan will focus on four main themes: protecting the homeland and way of life; promoting American prosperity; demonstrating peace through strength; and advancing American influence in an ever-competitive world.

Mr Trump's doctrine holds that nation states are in perpetual competition and that the US must fight on all fronts to protect and defend its sovereignty from friend and foe alike.

While the administration often says that 'America First' does not mean 'America Alone', the national security strategy to be presented by Mr Trump will make clear that the US will stand up for itself even if that means acting unilaterally or alienating others on issues like trade, climate change and immigration, according to officials.

The last such strategy document, prepared by then-president Barack Obama in 2015, declared climate change an "urgent and growing threat to our national security".

A senior official said the Trump plan removes that determination, following the administration's threat to pull out of the Paris climate accord, but will mention the importance of environmental stewardship.

Despite the risk of potential isolation presented by Mr Trump's strategy, its fundamentals are not a surprise.

The Associated Press last week reviewed excerpts of a late draft of the roughly 70-page document and spoke to two people familiar with it.

The draft emphasises that US economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might.

And they said it would stress the US is interested only in relationships with other countries, including alliances such as Nato, which are fair and reciprocal.

Mr Trump, according to the senior officials, is also expected to discuss threats he will deem "rogue regimes", like North Korea, and "revisionist powers", like Russia and China, who aim to change the status quo with moves such as Moscow's actions in Ukraine and Georgia, or Beijing's in the South China Sea.

Mr Trump is also planning to renew his call for the member states in the United Nations and Nato to spend more on defence.

The senior officials said the document refers to China as a "strategic competitor," rather than the stronger accusation of "economic aggression" previewed last week by National Security Adviser HR McMaster.

Despite international challenges, the document cites emerging opportunities to advance US interests in the Middle East.

It said: "Some of our partners are working together to reject radical ideologies and key leaders are calling for a rejection of Islamist extremism and violence.

"Encouraging political stability and sustainable prosperity would contribute to dampening the conditions that fuel sectarian grievances."

The strategy document asserts that "for generations the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has been understood as the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region.

"Threats from radical jihadist terrorist organisations and the threat from Iran are creating the realisation that Israel is not the cause of the region's problems," it says.

"States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats."

The president is also set to make the case that US economic security is national security and that economic security must be ensured with military might.

The criticism of Russia will come as a break from recent warm words between Mr Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

The leaders have spoken twice in four days, with Mr Trump calling Mr Putin to thank him for kind words about the US stock market, and Mr Putin reaching out to his US counterpart to thank the CIA for help in stopping a terror plot in St Petersburg.

The strategy document will not make explicit reference to Russian attempts to meddle in the US political system, but an official said it would highlight the importance of ensuring the resilience of US democratic institutions.

The early draft of the strategy reviewed by the AP lamented that America had put itself at a disadvantage by entering into multinational agreements, such as those aimed at combating climate change, and introducing domestic policies to implement them.

Ahead of the strategy launch, China has appealed to Washington to promote "strategic mutual trust".

The Chinese government had yet to see the report and could not comment on it, said a foreign ministry spokeswoman, Hua Chunying. But she emphasised the importance of US-Chinese cooperation.

She said: "We hope the US national security strategy will play a constructive role to promote world peace and stability and contribute to Chinese-US strategic mutual trust in ensuring world peace and security."

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