Trump abruptly ends Asia tour

The Phnom Penh Post - - WORLD - Huw Grif­fith

DON­ALD Trump said he had done “a re­ally fan­tas­tic job” on a five-na­tion tour of Asia in which he had made a lot of friends, but he ended it abruptly yes­ter­day by skip­ping most of a Philippine sum­mit.

The US pres­i­dent, who be­gan his jour­ney in Ja­pan 12 days ago, said his trip had seen progress in his goal of nar­row­ing Amer­ica’s trade deficits.

“I’ve made a lot of friends at the high­est level,” Trump told re­porters shortly be­fore board­ing Air Force One in Manila, adding the trip was “tremen­dously suc­cess­ful”.

“I think the fruits of our labour are go­ing to be in­cred­i­ble,” he said, later pre­dict­ing an al­ready un­veiled $300 bil­lion worth of trade deals “is go­ing to be quadru­pled very quickly” to over a tril­lion dol­lars.

He of­fered no ev­i­dence for this as­sess­ment.

“It’s been a re­ally great 12 days,” he said. “I think we have done a re­ally fan­tas­tic job.”

Be­fore leav­ing, Trump gath­ered briefly with 18 other world lead­ers ahead of the start of the East Asia Sum­mit, the fi­nal set piece of his trip.

The for­mer re­al­ity TV star had ini­tially planned to skip the sum­mit, then back­tracked af­ter crit­i­cism it could be seen as a snub. But he did not stay for the of­fi­cial start of the sum­mit yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, also miss­ing the pre­ced­ing group photo with his fel­low lead­ers.

Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son sat in for him at the sum­mit, which was sched­uled to run into the evening.

The sum­mit groups the 10mem­ber As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions with Aus­tralia, China, In­dia, Ja­pan, South Korea, New Zealand and Rus­sia, as well as the United States.

Pomp and pageantry

In a trip that was dom­i­nated by the North Korean nu­clear cri­sis, Trump was treated to pomp and pageantry in Ja­pan and South Korea, where he re­peat­edly blasted the regime of Kim Jong-un.

Aboard Air Force One, he claimed suc­cess “in terms of North Korea and get­ting everybody to­gether. I think their acts are all to­gether”.

In China, where Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping rolled out the red car­pet for a “state visit plus” – a wel­come Trump de­clared “peo­ple re­ally have never seen any­thing like” – the White House trum­peted more than $250 bil- lion of trade agree­ments.

An­a­lysts say the head­line fig­ure hides a paucity of de­liv­er­ables, with lots of the agree­ments be­ing non­bind­ing mem­o­ran­dums of un­der­stand­ing. They say many will take years to yield re­sults and some will never ma­te­ri­alise.

En route to Hawaii, how­ever, Trump was bullish, pre­dict­ing a rapid clos­ing of Amer­i­can trade deficits.

“I think one of the things we re­ally ac­com­plished big is re­la­tion­ship, and also let­ting peo­ple know that from now on, things are go­ing to be re­cip­ro­cal,” he said.

“We can’t have trade deficits of $30, $40, $50 bil­lion; $300 bil­lion in the case of China. We can’t do that. We have to have re­cip­ro­cal trade. You will see num­bers that you won’t be­lieve over the years. Be­cause over a pe­riod of years, they will be treat­ing us much dif­fer­ently than they have in the past.”

Dur­ing a stop in Viet­nam, the is­sue of al­leged Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 US elec­tion reared its head again when Trump ap­peared to en­dorse Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s as­ser­tion that there had been no plot by Moscow.

In the Philip­pines, Trump sparked head­lines with his pally re­la­tion­ship with Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, a man who has boasted of per­son­ally killing peo­ple and whose drug war has claimed thou­sands of lives.

Speak­ing to re­porters as he flew over the Pa­cific Ocean, Trump again made no men­tion of hu­man rights or the ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings that cam­paign­ers say are part and par­cel of Manila’s drugs war.

But he praised the “im­por­tant mil­i­tary lo­ca­tion” of the coun­try and said ties, which soured when his pre­de­ces­sor Barack Obama spoke out against Duterte’s cam­paign, were back on track.

“Now we have a very good re­la­tion­ship there. We’re back with the Philip­pines,” he said.


US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (cen­tre) waves be­fore board­ing Air Force One af­ter at­tend­ing the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions Sum­mit in Manila.

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