Trump in Asia: A break from the past with shaky re­sults

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - POLITICS - BY JONATHAN LEMIRE AND JILL COLVIN

In his trav­els across Asia, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump of­fered him­self as a sharp break from pres­i­dents past. He pushed re­gional lead­ers to re­shape trade deals to Amer­ica’s lik­ing, opted against spot­light­ing hu­man rights abuses and cranked up pres­sure on North Korea to end its nu­clear pro­gram.

But for all the pageantry and prom­ises un­furled dur­ing his five-na­tion, 12-day trip, Trump re­turns to Wash­ing­ton with few con­crete ac­com­plish­ments in hand and leaves un­cer­tain Asian cap­i­tals in his wake.

The pres­i­dent pushed a go-it-alone trade pol­icy yet reaf­firmed tra­di­tional al­liances. He ca­joled and flat­tered lead­ers in Tokyo and Seoul with­out elic­it­ing firm com­mit­ments for a more bal­anced eco­nomic re­la­tion­ship. He opened the door to ne­go­ti­a­tions with North Korea, but such diplo­matic over­tures were over­shad­owed by a tweet that de­rided dic­ta­tor Kim Jong Un as “short and fat.”

And as re­gional al­lies ner­vously watched for Trump to de­fine the new U.S. ap­proach to the Pa­cific Rim, the pres­i­dent mud­died his mes­sage. At a sum­mit in Viet­nam, he vowed to hold ris­ing su­per­power China ac­count­able for un­fair busi­ness and trade prac­tices. Yet in Bei­jing, the pres­i­dent said, “I don’t blame China” for a grow­ing trade gap.

Trump’s un­scripted de­ci­sion to pub­licly de­nounce the poli­cies of his pre­de­ces­sors while flat­ter­ing his Asian hosts un­der­lined his un­con­ven­tional in­ter­na­tional ap­proach, one cen­tered on per­sonal rap­port and strate­gic com­mit­ments while pay­ing lit­tle at­ten­tion to the guardrails that have long de­fined U.S. for­eign pol­icy.

In the White House view, Trump ac­com­plished what he set out to do: strengthen re­la­tion­ships with world lead­ers and lay the ground­work for more eq­ui­table eco­nomic re­la­tion­ships. The pres­i­dent soaked in the

lav­ish wel­come cer­e­monies at each stop and dubbed the trip “tremen­dously suc­cess­ful.”

“I think the fruits of our la­bor are go­ing to be in­cred­i­ble, whether it’s the se­cu­rity of our na­tions, whether it’s se­cu­rity of the world or whether it’s trade,” Trump said be­fore leav­ing the Philip­pines on Tues­day bound for home.

Trump said he’d have more to say about the trip with a “ma­jor state­ment” at the White House this week. But across the Pa­cific, Trump was re­minded of the chal­lenges await­ing him at home.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump gives a state­ment Tues­day be­fore leav­ing the East Asia sum­mit at the Philippine In­ter­na­tional Con­ven­tion Cen­ter. Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son stands at his left while Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser H.R. McMaster is at left.

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