Trump heads to Asia amid a sea of troubles
Russian poll meddling probe hots up
WASHINGTON: Beset by challenges at home, President Donald Trump yesterday embarked on the longest trip to Asia by a US president in more than a quarter of a century, looking for help to pressure North Korea to stand down from a nuclear crisis.
Trump’s tour of Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines until November 14 takes him out of Washington as it is preoccupied with several issues.
These include an intensifying federal investigation into Russian meddling in last year’s election, New York’s recovery from an attack that killed eight people and debate over a taxcut plan that if approved by Congress would be his first major legislative victory.
The trip comes just days after Trump’s for mer campaign manager, Paul Manafort, was indicted in the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. His attorney-general Jeff Sessions faces Democratic calls to appear before Congress again to clarify his previous testimony about the campaign’s Russia contacts.
Amid the furore caused by the revelations, the Kremlin said yesterday a meeting between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin was being discussed and Trump said it might happen.
“We may have a meeting with Putin. He is very important because they can help us with North Korea. They can help us with Syria. We have to talk about Ukraine.”
Court documents made public on Monday also disclosed a Trump campaign foreign policy adviser, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty last month to lying to the FBI. They cited a March 2016 meeting, attended by Trump and Sessions, in which Papadopoulos offered to help arrange a meeting between candidate Trump and Putin.
While tweeting about developments this week, Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that he was “not angry at anybody” over the case and there was nothing to suggest any collusion by his campaign and Russia. His extended absence has alarmed allies who, after seeing a healthcare refor m bid fizzle, worry the tax effort could suffer without him to keep momentum going.
The last time a US president was in Asia for so long was in late 1991 and early 1992 when George HW Bush became ill at a Japanese state dinner.
Trump will visit Japan and South Korea in search of a united front against North Korea before going to Beijing, where he will push Chinese president Xi Jinping to get tougher on Pyongyang.
He will attend the AsiaPacific Economic Co-operation summit in Danang, Vietnam, make a state visit to Hanoi and end his trip with the Association of South East Asia Nations summit in Manila. – Reuters
US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before departing for Asia yesterday.