Trump in Asia

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In early November, President Donald Trump travelled to Asia in a five country, 13-day trip. He visited Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. This was Trump’s longest trip as president and was the longest presidential Asian trip since 1992. The major topics Trump addressed on the trip were the threat from North Korea, the U.S. trade deficit with China and negotiation of deals between the U.S. and countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Starting his trip in Japan, the President sent a clear message that the American military and its allies remain a crucial deterrent to the North Korean threat. Trump avoided his typical incendiary and provocative discussion and tweeting about North Korea. He called for stronger sanctions to be placed on North Korea and said that Japan and the U.S. were in agreement as to how to proceed.

In South Korea, Trump reiterated the need to strengthen the global stance against North Korea. He emphasized the positive relationship between the U.S. and South Korea, and the two nations agreed to increase military forces in the region. He attempted to visit the demilitarized zone in between North and South Korea, but weather forced a halt to the visit. In South Korea, Trump and President Moon Jae-in also discussed a possible renegotiation of the free trade agreement between the two nations.

Trump then visited China. He toured the Forbidden City, the historic palace that housed Chinese emperors and their families for almost 500 years. Trump was the first foreign official to have an official dinner in the palace since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. During the visit, Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping discussed the mutual desire for a fair, profitable and peaceful trade relationship between the two nations as well as their united front against North Korea.

Trump next visited Vietnam and attended a summit with Pacific Rim leaders. His speech rebuked trade practices that hurt American businesses and workers. He emphasized his desire to form bilateral trade deals as opposed to multilateral deals in an attempt to push his “America First” policy. He did not blame other countries for taking advantage of the U.S., but did accuse former administrations of allowing other countries to take advantage of the country.

At the summit, Trump discussed Putin and Russia’s meddling in the U.S. election, and the two released a statement about fighting ISIS in Syria. They stressed the need to keep existing military communications open and said that there would not be a military solution to the problem.

In the Philippines, Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte discussed human rights and Duterte’s war on drugs. The White House referenced the discussion of human rights issues relating to Duterte’s cruel and condemned manner of enforcing the war on drugs, but Duterte claims there was no such discussion.

Overall, his trip emphasized deterring the North Korean threat, renegotiation of trade deals in the region and the U.S. commitment to its allies in the region. The trip has been criticized as focused on rhetoric rather than policy. It was largely considered non-impactful. However, considering Trump’s history of inflammatory speech, the trip can be considered a relative win for the White House.

Photo courtesy of VOA News. 

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