US Election 2016

Donald Trump says foreign policy team still not ready, will form team at 'the appropriate time'

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands between his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (left) and his son Eric (right) during a news conference in Florida, on March 15, 2016.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump stands between his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (left) and his son Eric (right) during a news conference in Florida, on March 15, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON • Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump has acknowledged he does not yet have a foreign policy team, while dismissing criticism that his harsh rhetoric was hurting America's standing in the world.

The New York billionaire, who had promised to name his foreign policy and national security advisers last month, said on Tuesday that he has met people but has made no decision yet on who to advise him on global affairs.

Asked whether he had a team, Mr Trump told MSNBC: "Yes, there is a team. Well, there's not a team. I'm going to be forming a team at the appropriate time. I've met with far more than three people."

Mr Trump has given hints of the kind of adviser he would hire to promote his national security policy, much of which is focused on cracking down on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). He also promises to gut global trade deals and build a wall on the Mexican border to halt illegal immigration.

Asked during a debate last week who he trusts on national security, Mr Trump had warm words for three men with world views that differ from one another: former diplomat Richard Haass, and two retired US Army officers, General Jack Keane and Colonel Jack Jacobs.

And on his campaign website last month, Mr Trump announced that he had received endorsements in Florida from two "top national security experts". Foreign policy experts said they know little about those Trump supporters.

They are Mr Gary Berntsen, a former senior CIA officer, and retired Colonel James Waurishuk, a one-time deputy chief of intelligence for US Central Command during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and who once served on the National Security Council staff.

"These people are not well known in foreign policy circles... I've never heard of any of them," said Harvard professor and former Kennedy School of Government dean Joseph Nye.

Foreign diplomats from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America and Asia have expressed alarm to US government officials about Mr Trump, calling his public statements inflammatory and insulting.

The businessman shot back on Tuesday, saying diplomats are upset over his tough stance on trade and returning jobs to the United States as he seeks the party's nomination for the Nov 8 presidential election.

"Every country is ripping us off in trade and other things. And they know that won't happen with me. I'm going to bring trade back, I'm going to bring our jobs back," Mr Trump told Fox News.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2016, with the headline 'Trump says foreign policy team still not ready, will form team at 'the appropriate time''. Print Edition | Subscribe