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From Abroad, Goodwill Amid Uncertainty -- WSJ

21 Jan 2017 7:32 am
By Felicia Schwartz 

Global leaders responded to the inauguration of President Donald Trump with wishes for good, and in some cases improved, relations with the U.S. -- amid concerns amplified by his inaugural pledge that, "from this day forward, it's going to be only America first."

Mr. Trump had indicated before Friday's ceremony that he would rewrite many long-established U.S. policy positions, and a common thread in official reactions from around the world was a hope for healthy ties.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he looked forward to working with the new president. Mr. Trump criticized Japan on the campaign trail, but a meeting with Mr. Abe after the election appeared to calm things down.

Amid security concerns in the Asia-Pacific region, Mr. Abe said, "I would like to further strengthen the unwavering tie between Japan and the United States based on the relationship of trust between us the two leaders."

In Germany, a spokesman for Angela Merkel said the chancellor would study the inaugural speech -- and that close cooperation with Mr. Trump and his team would begin in the coming days.

Yet Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel tweeted words of warning: "Dear USA, stay the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Some German politicians reacted to Mr. Trump's address with concern. "Closing borders, America first, and the blood of a patriot. I am very cold," Katrin Göring-Eckardt, co-head in the German parliament of the left-of-center Greens, wrote on Twitter.

Pope Francis sent Mr. Trump a message from the Vatican: "I pray that your decisions will be guided by the rich spiritual and ethical values that have shaped the history of the American people and your nation's commitment to the advancement of human dignity and freedom world-wide."

The two sparred in February 2016 after the pope criticized Mr. Trump's proposal to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants. Mr. Trump called the pope "disgraceful."

There also were notes of caution from Asia. In an opinion piece Saturday in the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post, an influential English-language newspaper owned by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, columnist Andrew Sheng suggested that Asians would need to be more self-sufficient under a potentially unpredictable U.S. president willing to shake up the status quo, even with America's staunchest allies in the region.

"As America moves to a new...junction, the choice is not between left or right, but between a great America or a small-minded America. Time for Asians to think and act for themselves," Mr. Sheng wrote.

South Korea's center-right newspaper Joongang Ilbo, one of the country's biggest-circulation dailies, said in an editorial Saturday that "our relations with the U.S. will face a challenge as Trump will most likely call for us to assume a bigger share in the cost of U.S. forces here and a renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement." But the editorial also praised Mr. Trump for taking a hard-line on North Korea's nuclear-development program.

The Hangook Ilbo, another Seoul daily, was blunt: "Now, everything becomes uncertain," the headline read, with a close-up photo of Mr. Trump blanketing most of the front page.

Officials in countries that have had frosty ties with the U.S. signaled hope that they could work with the new administration.

Russia's embassy in Washington tweeted: "It is possible to solve many problems if Russia, U.S. focus on a pragmatic search for shared interests" and attached a photo of an invitation to the inauguration festivities.

In Moscow, more than 100 Russians from the nationalist-leaning sectors of society gathered in a Soviet-era telegraph office, where they drank champagne and toasted the new U.S. president.

Members of the pro-Kremlin art collective "White Star" attended the event. "We didn't hack the election!" said member Mikhail Kovalyov, wearing a Trump and Pence baseball cap.

In Bolivia, President Evo Morales, a critic of the U.S. who expelled the American ambassador nearly a decade ago, said on Twitter that he hoped to improve ties with Mr. Trump's administration by exchanging ambassadors.

He said he hoped Mr. Trump reduces foreign interventions and the expansion of military bases "to guarantee peace with social justice."

Egypt's President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi said he expects "a new momentum in the trajectory of Egyptian-American relations" under Mr. Trump's administration.

In Mexico, which has had strong relations with the U.S., officials and business owners are watching the start of the presidency with concern and caution. Since Mr. Trump's victory, the Mexican peso has plunged to historic lows against the dollar, while new investment has dried up -- victims of Mr. Trump's pledge to renegotiate or rescind the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"For the whole world a period of turbulence is beginning, without direction, in which there appears nothing good will happen, at least not in the short and medium term," wrote former Foreign Minister Jorge Castañeda.

Hillary Clinton outperformed Mr. Trump in global popularity polls during the 2016 campaign, and anti-Trump protests sprung up in several foreign cities Friday, including Brussels and Berlin.

In Manila, protesters gathered near the U.S. Embassy to warn their country's leader not to get too close to Mr. Trump. Holding placards and chanting "Dump Trump," they said they wanted to send a message that Mr. Trump's presidency could endanger the status of Filipino immigrants living in the U.S. They also protested against U.S. access to Philippine military bases and complained that Mr. Trump's election set back the cause of women's rights.

--James Hookway, Amie Ferris-Rotman, Anton Troianovski, Deborah Ball, José de Córdoba and Ryan Dube contributed to this article.

Write to Felicia Schwartz at Felicia.Schwartz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 21, 2017 02:32 ET (07:32 GMT)

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