Un­cer­tainty abounds af­ter Trump trip to Asia

Pres­i­dent leaves with few con­crete ac­com­plish­ments.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - FROM PAGE ONE - 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.

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.

He must grap­ple with the un­cer­tain fate of his tax cut plan, face the threat of a gov­ern­ment shut­down and de­cide whether to cut ties with Roy Moore, the Repub­li­can can­di­date in Alabama’s spe­cial Se­nate race, who is ac­cused of sex­u­ally as­sault­ing un­der­age girls decades ago.

For most of the trip, Trump was able to leave do­mes­tic af­fairs be­hind, though he did reignite the Rus­sia firestorm by re­veal­ing that Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin had in­sisted to him in Viet­nam that Moscow didn’t hack the 2016 elec­tion. Trump added: “And I be­lieve — I re­ally be­lieve — that when he tells me that, he means it.” Trump later clar­i­fied that he was “with” the U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies that con­cluded Rus­sia was be­hind the in­ter­fer­ence.

In Seoul, Trump de­liv­ered a sharp warn­ing to North Korea, say­ing: “Do not un­der­es­ti­mate us. And do not try us.” But he also, for the first time, sig­naled a will­ing­ness to ne­go­ti­ate with Kim, though he didn’t elab­o­rate.

Just as vi­tal as the mes­sage Trump de­liv­ered to Py­ongyang was the one he sent to China, which sup­plies most of North Korea’s eco­nomic lifeblood. His mes­sage to Bei­jing: It’s time to do more.

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