Trump cel­e­brates ‘fruit­ful’ tour of Asia

Prom­ises ma­jor an­nounce­ments on North Korea, trade progress

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY GUY TAY­LOR AND DAVE BOYER

TOKYO | Pres­i­dent Trump wrapped up his marathon trip through Asia on Tues­day, cit­ing progress on trade deals, greater re­spect in for­eign cap­i­tals for U.S. power and pres­tige, and re­as­sur­ance of al­lies over nu­clear ten­sions with North Korea.

As Mr. Trump departed an eco­nomic con­fer­ence in The Philip­pines at the end of the 12-day trip, the long­est by a U.S. pres­i­dent in 25 years, he de­scribed his ef­forts as “very fruit­ful.”

“We’ve made a lot of big progress on trade,” said Mr. Trump, point­ing to busi­ness deals forged be­tween U.S. and for­eign com­pa­nies. “We have deficits with al­most ev­ery­body; those deficits are go­ing to be cut very quickly and very sub­stan­tially.”

Due to ar­rive in Wash­ing­ton late Tues­day night, the pres­i­dent said he will make ma­jor an­nounce­ments on trade and North Korea on Wed­nes­day at the White House.

While Mr. Trump’s state visit to China was viewed as the mar­quee stop of his five-na­tion tour, the pres­i­dent’s high-stakes speech to South Korea’s na­tional as­sem­bly on the North Korean nu­clear threat was ar­guably the big­gest mo­ment of the trip. An­a­lysts on the Korean Penin­sula said Mr. Trump suc­ceeded in low­er­ing ten­sions while show­ing firm re­solve in his de­mand to de­nu­cle­arize North Korea.

Af­ter anx­i­ety over Mr. Trump’s ear­lier threat to meet North Korea’s ag­gres­sion with “fire and fury,” the pres­i­dent’s stop in South Korea was “short but ef­fec­tive,” said BJ Kim, a for­mer South Korean diplo­mat who

teaches at Hankuk Univer­sity of For­eign Stud­ies in Seoul.

“South Kore­ans were pleas­antly sur­prised and felt sud­denly re­as­sured as they found in his words a new kind of Don­ald Trump who seems to ac­tu­ally un­der­stand the his­tory, the coun­tries and the peo­ple in­volved re­gard­ing the cur­rent North Korea cri­sis,” Mr. Kim told The Wash­ing­ton Times. “Be­fore Trump’s ar­rival, sense of anx­i­ety was widely spread in Seoul.”

Prior to the speech, Mr. Kim said, “the big­gest fear in Seoul has been the pos­si­bil­ity of the U.S. by­pass­ing South Korea, strik­ing Py­ongyang and thus invit­ing mas­sive re­tal­i­a­tion from the North.”

“Af­ter the Nov. 8 Na­tional As­sem­bly speech, South Kore­ans are shed­ding their im­age of Don­ald Trump who hap­haz­ardly sees South Korea just an­other far­away coun­try he does not want to un­der­stand,” he said. “The wor­ries of sud­den out­break of a war have been con­sid­er­ably as­suaged.”

Still, Mr. Trump couldn’t re­sist pok­ing fun at un­pre­dictable North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Twit­ter be­fore re­turn­ing home.

“Why would Kim Jong-un in­sult me by call­ing me ‘old,’ when I would NEVER call him ‘short and fat?’ Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend - and maybe some­day that will hap­pen!” the pres­i­dent tweeted.

North Korean of­fi­cials de­scribed Mr. Trump’s visit as “noth­ing but a busi­ness trip by a war­mon­ger to en­rich the mo­nop­o­lies of the U.S. de­fense in­dus­try.”

“Trump, dur­ing his visit, laid bare his true na­ture as de­stroyer of the world peace and sta­bil­ity and begged for a nu­clear war on the Korean Penin­sula,” Py­ongyang’s for­eign min­istry said in a state­ment.

Democrats panned Mr. Trump’s trip, say­ing he suc­cumbed to the flat­tery of red-car­pet treat­ment from Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. Sen­ate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York called Mr. Trump’s tour of Asia “a flop,” say­ing he acted “like a lap dog” to Mr. Xi “but talks tough to our friends in South­east Asia.”

“Pres­i­dency by mis­ad­ven­ture,” Mr. Schumer said on Twit­ter.

Mr. Trump said the pomp and pageantry of his Chi­nese wel­come was a proper trib­ute for him and for the U.S.

“It was red car­pet like no­body, I think, has prob­a­bly ever re­ceived,” Mr. Trump said. “And that really is a sign of re­spect, per­haps for me a lit­tle, but really for our coun­try. And I’m really proud of that.”

Mr. Kim said the pres­i­dent also suc­ceeded in high­light­ing that Bei­jing and Moscow must be part of the so­lu­tion to dis­man­tling Py­ongyang’s nu­clear weapon and in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­sile pro­grams.

“South Kore­ans saw the world be­ing re­minded that the North Korea is­sue is a global prob­lem the en­tire world com­mu­nity — in­clud­ing China and Rus­sia — will need to come to­gether to solve,” he said.

An­a­lysts in Tokyo said Mr. Trump was taken “very se­ri­ously” by Ja­pan’s for­eign pol­icy es­tab­lish­ment de­spite the Ja­panese pub­lic’s rel­a­tive dis­taste for him. Polls prior to the visit showed only about 25 per­cent of Ja­panese peo­ple had con­fi­dence in Mr. Trump.

While Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe, the only for­eign leader who vis­ited Mr. Trump at Trump Tower be­fore his in­au­gu­ra­tion in Jan­uary, rolled out the red car­pet for the pres­i­dent, jour­nal­ists in Tokyo had mixed opin­ions about the Ja­pan leg of the trip.

Hideo Iwasaki, a mem­ber of the man­age­ment team at Mainichi Shim­bun, a ma­jor news­pa­per in the Ja­panese cap­i­tal, told The Wash­ing­ton Times that Mr. Abe “clearly made an ef­fort to ap­pear close to Trump,” but it was not clear whether the Ja­panese pub­lic viewed the visit in a pos­i­tive light.

Ko­suke Taka­hashi, a long­time Ja­panese jour­nal­ist work­ing as the Tokyo cor­re­spon­dent for Jane’s De­fense Weekly, said Mr. Trump’s com­ments about the need for Tokyo to buy more Amer­i­can weapons and shoot down the next mis­sile North Korea fires over Ja­pan were viewed with skep­ti­cism by Mr. Abe’s crit­ics.

“In my view,” he told The Times, “Pres­i­dent Trump has been fu­el­ing North Korean cri­sis by con­duct­ing fierce ver­bal at­tacks against North Korea’s Kim Jong-un in­ten­tion­ally. As a re­sult, stock prices of U.S. de­fense com­pa­nies such as Boe­ing, Lock­heed Mar­tin, Raytheon and Northrop have been sky­rock­et­ing as they can sell ex­pen­sive weapons such as Aegis mis­sile de­fense sys­tem to Ja­pan and South Korea. Trump is show­ing very good at top sales diplo­macy.”

Oth­ers said there was no ques­tion the Tokyo visit was a suc­cess, but raised doubts about Mr. Trump’s com­ments on the prospect of Ja­pan shoot­ing down a North Korean mis­sile.

Am­bas­sador Te­suya Endo, a for­mer Ja­panese diplo­mat who served as an en­voy to Ja­pan-North Korea nor­mal­iza­tion at­tempts dur­ing the 1990s sug­gested Ja­panese for­eign pol­icy elites were skep­ti­cal of the com­ments.

“Do you think what Mr. Trump said is a re­al­is­tic ap­proach?” Mr. Endo mused in an in­ter­view with The Times in Tokyo. “I don’t think so. His com­ments on this, it seems to me, weren’t taken se­ri­ously here.”

The stakes would be dan­ger­ously high if Ja­pan were to shoot down a North Korean rocket, he added.

“It would be a vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law by Ja­pan, and if we missed, it would raise great doubts about the re­li­a­bil­ity of Ja­pan’s mis­sile de­fense,” Mr. Endo said. “If it hits or suc­ceeds in knock­ing out a North Korean mis­sile, the sit­u­a­tion may de­te­ri­o­rate badly and quickly.”

In Manila, at the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions sum­mit, Mr. Trump held bi­lat­eral meet­ings with Mr. Abe and Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull on pre­sent­ing a united front against North Korea.

“The key for us is to en­sure very close tri­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion so as to bring peace and sta­bil­ity on the ground,” said the Ja­panese leader.

Mr. Turn­bull said Aus­tralia will work with the U.S. to en­sure sta­bil­ity.

“We’ve got the same val­ues and the same fo­cus on en­sur­ing that the North Korean regime comes to its senses and stops its reck­less provo­ca­tion and threats of con­flict in our re­gion,” he said.

As they met, three U.S. air­craft car­rier strike groups were par­tic­i­pat­ing in a mas­sive naval drill in the western Pa­cific wa­ters as a show of force.

On the fi­nal leg of the trip, Mr. Trump re­peat­edly praised Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, who has over­seen a bloody drug war that has fea­tured ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings. Mr. Trump told re­porters that he and Mr. Duterte have “had a great re­la­tion­ship.”

The White House said the two lead­ers dis­cussed the Is­lamic State group, il­le­gal drugs and trade. Press sec­re­tary Sarah Huck­abee San­ders said hu­man rights came up briefly in the con­text of the Philip­pines’ fight against il­le­gal drugs.

The lead­ers later is­sued a joint state­ment say­ing that “the two sides un­der­scored that hu­man rights and the dig­nity of hu­man life are es­sen­tial, and agreed to con­tinue main­stream­ing the hu­man rights agenda in their na­tional pro­grams.”

Mr. Duterte’s ac­tions have alarmed hu­man rights ad­vo­cates, who say as many as 9,000 peo­ple have been killed in the crack­down on drug traf­fick­ing.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

OUT­REACH: Pres­i­dent Trump, Viet­namese Prime Min­is­ter Nguyen Xuan Phuc (left) and Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte pre­pared to do the “ASEAN­way hand­shake” Mon­day dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony at the ASEAN sum­mit in the Philip­pines, Mr. Trump’s last stop on a five-coun­try trip through Asia.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump on Mon­day wound down his 12-day Asia tour — the long­est for­eign trip by a U.S. pres­i­dent in 25 years — with an in­ter­na­tional sum­mit and a se­ries of meet­ings with Pa­cific Rim al­lies. His host in the Philip­pines is over­see­ing a bloody drug war.

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