Fri | Nov 24, 2017

Facing tumult at home, Trump sets out on lengthy Asia trip

Published:Sunday | November 5, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Protesters against North Korea salute during a rally welcoming the planned visit by US President Donald Trump in Seoul, South Korea, yesterday.

HONOLULU (AP):

On his most gruelling and consequential trip abroad, President Donald Trump stands ready to exhort Asian allies and rivals on the need to counter the dangers posed by North Korea's nuclear threat.

The 12-day, five-country trip, the longest Far East itinerary for a president in a generation, comes at a precarious moment for Trump.

Just days ago, his former campaign chairman was indicted and another adviser pleaded guilty as part of an investigation into possible collusion between his 2016 campaign and Russian officials.

With Trump set to arrive in Japan today, the trip presents a crucial international test for a president looking to reassure Asian allies worried that his inward-looking 'America First' agenda could cede power in the region to China.

They also are rattled by his bellicose rhetoric about North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The North's growing missile arsenal threatens the capitals Trump will visit.

"The trip comes, I would argue, at a very inopportune time for the president. He is under growing domestic vulnerabilities that we all know about, hour to hour," said Jonathan Pollack, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

KOREAN CRISIS

"The conjunction of those issues leads to the palpable sense of unease about the potential crisis in Korea."

Trump's spontaneous, and at time reckless style flies in the face of the generations-old traditions and protocol that govern diplomatic exchanges in Asia.

The grand receptions expected for him in Tokyo, Seoul, Beijing and beyond are sure to be lavish attempts to impress the president, who raved about the extravagances shown him on earlier visits to Saudi Arabia and France.

The trip will also put Trump in face-to-face meetings with authoritarian leaders for whom he has expressed admiration. They include China's Xi Jinping, whom Trump has likened to "a king", and the Philippines' Rodrigo Duterte, who has sanctioned the extrajudicial killings of drug dealers.

Trump may also have the chance for a second private audience with Russian President Vladimir Putin, on the sidelines of a summit in Vietnam.