Australia Feels Its Ties to U.S. Put It in a Bind


But North Korea’s threat against the country, far-fetched as it might seem, is an example of how Australia’s most important military alliance faces a new challenge: the risk that President Trump will draw the nation into a conflict or other unexpected crisis that destabilizes the region, angers its trading partners or forces it to side with either the United States or China.

“The question is: What might America drag Australia into?” said Ashley Townshend, a research fellow at the United States Studies Center at the University of Sydney. “That’s a very scary thought for Australians, many of whom perceive Donald Trump to be an erratic and highly self-interested commander in chief.”

Mr. Trump has already embarrassed Australia once, with an abrupt phone call to Mr. Turnbull that seemed to dismiss Australia’s historic role as a friend who often gives more than it gets. Now his unpredictable approach is fueling a national debate about Australia’s relationship with the world, and especially the United States. Last week, Paul Keating, a prime minister during the Clinton years, reignited discussion by arguing that Australia must end its status as a “client state.”

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