Infographic: Asia in the US debates

How much (or little) was the mention of Asia, or topics related to Asia, during the presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? We scan through the three transcripts to find out.

Very little time was spent on Asia during all three debates which raises concerns about the future of the Obama administration’s Asia rebalance policy. Read Jeremy Au Yong’s commentary after the first debate here.

When the candidates did touch on Asia, there were two broad topics they discussed - nuclear competition in East Asia, and China as a threat to US trade and economy.

Nuclear weapons in East Asia

Mr Donald Trump became the first nominee to use the word “liar” against his opponent in a presidential debate after Mrs Hillary Clinton brought up comments he made on nuclear weapons on television in April.

In the third debate, Mrs Clinton said: “This is a person who has been very cavalier, even casual, about the use of nuclear weapons.” she said.

“He’s advocated more countries getting them: Japan, Korea, even Saudi Arabia. He said, well, if we have them, why don't we use them, which I think is terrifying.”

Mr Trump responded by calling Mrs Clinton a liar: "All I said is we have to renegotiate defence agreements with other countries that the US can no longer afford.”

When Mrs Clinton replied, “Well, I'm just quoting you when you were asked…", he said: “There’s no quote. You’re not going to find a quote from me.”

But in April, Mr Trump made the following comments during an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News: "So, North Korea has nukes. Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea."


Wallace asked: "With nukes?"

"Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes," Mr Trump responded.

And earlier in March, in an interview published by The New York Times, he had said that he would consider letting Japan and South Korea build their own nuclear weapons, rather than rely on America for protection against North Korea and China. 

That proposal, analysts and administration officials had pointed out, would mean dispensing with the US security umbrella that has been key to stability in Asia since the end of World War II.

In the first and third debates, Mrs Clinton reassured US allies they would not be left without protection if she is elected.

China as a threat to US trade and economy

Mr Trump has accused Beijing of currency manipulation and of not doing enough to stem North Korea's nuclear ambitions, while both candidates have raised concerns about China as a cyber threat.

In the first debate, Mr Trump claimed that China has been able to use the US as a “piggy bank” with no one, namely the government, to stop it. 

Mrs Clinton hit back - accusing Mr Trump of buying the steel China has been “illegally dumping” in the US. 

This then led to the question of protecting jobs in the US, with Mr Trump again claiming the government had not done enough and Mrs Clinton accusing him of being the one taking jobs out of their country.

“Donald has bought Chinese steel and aluminium. In fact, the Trump hotel right here in Las Vegas was made with Chinese steel.

“So he goes around with crocodile tears about how terrible it is, but he has given jobs to Chinese steel workers, not American steel workers,” she said in the third debate.

China also found itself being mentioned under a new topic in the third debate, that of abortion rights. Mrs Clinton gave an emotional defence of her stance on allowing termination of late-term pregnancies, citing forced abortions in the Asian country and other practices that she saw while secretary of state.

Source: CNN, Bloomberg

Who got the most words in?

Mr Trump beat Mrs Clinton for the number of words on both the first and second debate. But for the third debate, Mrs Clinton managed to edge only slightly ahead, only by around 300 words.

As for the hosts, Chris Wallace used up the most time as moderator out of all three presidential debates, taking almost 20 per cent of the total word count.