ust at the moment when Asia faces its greatest challenges in decades, Donald Trump essentially proposes to undercut, if not destroy, American leadership in the Pacific. The Republican front-runner, whose stock answer to any question about relations with any foreign country is that he owns buildings there, never seems to consider that it is the U.S. security system and the open trading system created by Washington that together have provided the base for Asian economic development and stability over the past 70 years.

Trump has said that he would consider withdrawing U.S. troops from both Japan and South Korea, if those countries did not pay more to host them. Yet one of the main reasons that Asia has been spared large-scale conflict since the end of World War II is the decades-long presence of U.S. military forces, which underwrite regional security. America’s so-called hub-and-spoke alliance system plays a major role in providing both security and assurance to Asian nations, allowing them to develop politically, build up their industrial capacity, and participate in the global trade network precisely because of their confidence in their physical security. Withdrawing our troops would be tantamount to ending our alliance with both countries and plunging the Pacific into dreadful insecurity with unknowable consequences.

Even worse, Trump has actually said he would be “open” to allowing both Tokyo and Seoul to build their own nuclear arsenals. This would ignite a nuclear arms race in East Asia. The core goals of U.S. strategy in Asia since 1945 have been to prevent any one power from dominating the region and to forestall nuclear competition among countries with a bitter past. Trump is right that our current commitments are costly. But far more costly would be an Asia in crisis or armed conflict, let alone one where nuclear weapons are widespread. Trump would not only throw the region into alarming uncertainty but would also tilt the strategic playing field decisively toward China.

Trump’s views on Asia’s economy are just as wrong-headed. While he never tires of reminding his questioners that we “owe” trillions to China and Japan, Trump has thought little, it seems, about the benefits the American consumer has received from East Asia’s becoming the workshop of the world and providing affordable goods from clothing to flat-screen TVs. To argue that the global economy is a rigged game is not to offer a coherent approach to ensuring continued development and opportunity in a changing American economy.

Oddly enough, Trump treats Japan as though this were the 1980s, apparently unaware of the fact that Japan has been the largest foreign investor in the United States for the past several years, pumping in $36 billion in 2015 alone. His animus toward Japan is as out of place as his assumption that China is an unstoppable economic juggernaut—when its economy is in fact slowing and its own internal demographic conflicts are coming to the fore.

Whether in economics or security, Trump offers the outlines of an Asia policy that reneges on U.S. promises, undercuts our friends and allies, and reduces U.S. leadership in the world’s most dynamic region. This is of particular concern given that Asia is dealing with a growing set of risks that threaten its future prosperity and stability, including China’s slowdown, which is sending economic shockwaves throughout the region. Just when free trade is needed to spur competitiveness, open up new markets, and provide new opportunities, Trump’s threats to retaliate against some of America’s largest trade partners all but ensure a currency war and worse.

Even more dangerous, China has rapidly developed its military over the past several decades and is now using it to intimidate and sometimes coerce its neighbors over contested territory in the East and South China Seas. Beijing has recently built islands on reefs in the South China Sea and has begun militarizing them, thereby giving itself the potential to control the skies and seas of one of the world’s most important waterways. Meanwhile, North Korea has continued its nuclear-weapons and ballistic-missile programs, conducting nuclear tests and firing off missiles even as reports circulate that the Obama administration has tried to reopen talks with the totalitarian regime.

Tensions are high in Asia, and concern for the future is growing. As uncomfortable as it may be to admit, American leadership is both more needed and wanted in Asia than ever before. Trump’s policies promise to send America’s friends in Asia reeling, embolden and encourage both Beijing and North Korea, and deal a blow to continued economic liberalization. Kicking half the world to the curb is a recipe for disaster.

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