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Trump Admin Looks To "Mainstream Republicans" — And A Trade Skeptic — For Asia Policy

A short list of names provided to BuzzFeed News of potential Asia policy hands includes several former Bush administration officials.

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Despite Donald Trump’s promises to completely shift the US’s current relationship with China, his transition team is working off a short list composed primarily of veteran Republican officials who wouldn’t be out of place on any GOP White House to run US policy toward Asia, a source told BuzzFeed News.

"This is going to be a mainstream Republican foreign policy administration," a source close to the campaign who works in foreign policy told BuzzFeed News on Thursday. "The policies and the personnel are going to look pretty much like most Republican administrations."

"There is a small group of Republicans who do Asia policy as a profession," the source said. "Generally speaking he’s going to be aligning himself with people who broadly share his worldview and who are professional Asia policy hands."

To illustrate that point, the source provided a short list of names that were being considered for roles in the Trump administration handling Asia policy. Several had appeared on various lists that have circulated over the past 48 hours, including former Sen. Jim Talent, who is currently on the US-China Commission and has been suggested as a possible Secretary of Defense or Commerce.

Also on the list: Randy Schriver, a former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs under the George W Bush administration currently working at a consulting firm founded by former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage; Peter Navarro, a trade skeptic whose policies have influenced Trump and would potentially work on trade policy; Rep. Randy Forbes was suggested as a person who would cover defense issues and has been speculated as Trump's possible Secretary of the Navy; and Elbridge Colby, who is currently a fellow at the Center for a New American Security and served as a foreign policy planner on Mitt Romney's pre-transition team.

Emails sent to and voicemails left with those listed for comment on whether they are being considered for roles in the administration went unanswered.

None of the names provided signed onto an open letter from March of GOP foreign policy leaders who opposed Trump's candidacy. People who did sign onto that letter are reportedly being blacklisted from jobs in the coming administration.

Trump would remain committed to nuclear non-proliferation, the source said when asked about South Korea and Japan. In interviews ahead of the election, he has said that allies such as those in East Asia enjoyed US protection without properly paying for it, leading to speculation that he would remove them from their spot under the so-called "nuclear umbrella," prompting them to develop nuclear weapons of their own.

As far as Asia itself is concerned, the source insisted that the Trump administration will be "showing our intent to remain a Pacific power" by spending more on defense would help the US build leverage against China and allow us to force it to enforce sanctions on North Korea. "We come from a position of weakness in working with Beijing on a whole range of issues."

"The President-elect doesn’t come from a Washington background to say the least," they said. "That presents opportunities and one of the opportunities is he’s not wedded to an approach that’s failed in the past."

Megha Rajagopalan is the Asia correspondent at BuzzFeed News.

Contact Megha Rajagopalan at megha.rajagopalan@buzzfeed.com.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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