President Donald Trump will leave Washington, D.C., on Friday for a lengthy trip with stops in five Asian countries. It comes as news of the Russian investigation swirls around the White House and marks Trump’s first visit to the Asian continent since becoming commander-in-chief.
Wrapping up on Nov. 13, the tour is said to be the longest by a sitting president since George H.W. Bush’s 1992 trip abroad (which didn’t end well for the 41st president or for the lap of then Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa.) Trade and North Korea will top Trump’s agenda as he visits Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
North Korea: Front and Center
North Korea’s nuclear ambitions will dominate the first few days of the trip as Trump visits Japan and South Korea, two of the countries most affected by the nation’s recent nuclear tests. Trump is expected to offer assurances to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the United States will stand with Japan against any North Korean aggression. Things may be more tense in South Korea, where President Moon Jae-in has opposed in principle the idea of unilateral action against North Korea by the U.S. President Trump will also skip a visit to the demilitarized zone (DMZ) there. An aide called the traditional stop “cliché”.
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Trade in China
As Trump moves on to China, trade will take center stage. The president has expressed displeasure about the U.S. trade deficit with China. He is expected to push for the removal of barriers to investment from U.S. companies. He’ll do so surrounded by some of the most powerful people in American business, as he is joined by the likes of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister, and Donald Chen, Asia-Pacific president of Archer Daniels Midland. Trump will also push for a trade-focused strategy of North Korean deterrence, encouraging China to enact and enforce stronger sanctions.
TPP and Putin
Moving on to Vietnam, Trump will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting, the first of two summits he’ll attend on his trip. The meeting will convene world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. More than half of the nations expected to attend are part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which Trump withdrew the U.S. from on his first day in office.
In the Philippines, Trump will attend an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit alongside his host, President Rodrigo Duterte. But he will conspicuously not attend the East Asia Summit (EAS), which will begin the day after he leaves the Philippines in a move seen as the largest potential stumbling block of the trip. The U.S. president’s participation in the conference became a “pillar” of relations with Asian nations under President Barack Obama, and some worry that Trump’s failure to attend will reduce American influence in the region.