Photo credit: William Moon

Trump is taking a 12-day Asia-Pacific tour from November 3rd to 14th. Here’s why we should pay attention.

On November 3rd, President Trump will depart on his second major trip abroad and his first tour of Asia since assuming office. The visit will include travels to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines.

Trump’s Asia-Pacific tour will “underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the administration said in a statement.

Most certainly, however, much of the tour will center around how to manage the threat of North Korea.

Trump and Kim’s recent back and forth name-calling has further increased tensions between the US and North Korea in much the same way that the same actions would warrant hair pulling and eye poking on a school playground. Beginning with rudimentary slights like “Little Rocket Man” and “mentally deranged US dotard,” the insults have quickly escalated to include threats to conduct atmospheric nuclear tests (courtesy of Kim) and “totally destroy” the other’s country (à la Trump).

Such threats, if ossified into a war between the two countries, has the potential to kill one million people on just the first day, according to a Stanford University assessment.

However, despite rising tensions, perhaps a state of cautious repose is allowable after US President Trump and South Korean President Moon’s recent reaffirmation of the two countries’ ”joint goal of pursuing the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of North Korea in a peaceful manner” in a Joint meeting in New York.

“The president’s engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula,” the White House said.

Aside from the North Korean threat, Trump’s first trip to Asia since taking office will undoubtedly be flavored by other affairs and tensions that have germinated since his inauguration. Three out of the five countries on the Asia-Pacific tour (Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam) are members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)  — a 12 nation trade agreement negotiated under former President Obama. On his third official day in office Trump formally withdrew the US from the partnership. “Great thing for the American worker,” Trump remarked as he signed the order.

In addition, strains regarding Trump’s repeated threats against trade action with China are viable to surface during his visit to Beijing. During his campaign trail and first few months as president, Trump has accused China multiple times of cheating and even going as far as to say “raping” the US in agreements of trade. China’s more cooperative neighbor, South Korea, too has not been exempt from such threats as Trump has recently made vows to withdraw from a trade deal with South Korea unless it is renegotiated.

The last stop of Trump’s Asia-Pacific tour, the Philippines, is precedented by Trump’s glowing praises of Philippine President Duterte’s antidrug campaign which has drawn the attention of various human rights groups that have denounced the Philippine President’s sanction of extrajudicial killings. Deadly attacks on drug suspects without arrest or trial were embraced by Trump in a telephone call between the two leaders in April. “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” said Trump. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”

President Donald J. Trump’s Upcoming  Asia-Pacific Tour:

  • Hawaii (Nov 3)

  • Japan (Nov 5)

  • South Korea (Nov 7)

  • Beijing, China (Nov 8)

  • Danang, Vietnam (Nov 10)

  • Manila, Philippines (Nov 12)

Hawaii (Nov 3)

On Nov 3 Trump will arrive in Hawaii, according to a White House press statement, to receive a briefing from US Pacific Command and visit Pearl Harbor in customary presidential fashion.

Japan (Nov 5)

From Hawaii, Trump will proceed to Japan to begin his Asia tour on Nov 5. He will be hosted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who will sit with Trump for a meeting with families of Japanese citizens abducted by North Korea, according to a White House statement.  Bilateral meetings will also be held between the two leaders, where they will follow up on US-Japan trade discussions.

South Korea (Nov 7)

On Nov 7, Trump will arrive in the Republic of Korea, where he will be hosted by South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The US President will speak at the National Assembly, according to the White House, where he will “celebrate the enduring alliance and friendship between the United States and the Republic of Korea, and call on the international community to join together in maximizing pressure on North Korea.” Trump’s trip to South Korea will likely be consumed by the North Korean threat and maintaining the US-South Korea alliance to contain South Korea’s ill-behaved neighbor.

Beijing, China (Nov 8)

From South Korea, President Trump will leave for Beijing, China where he will be hosted by President Xi Jinping. Trump’s agenda in China will cover “a series of bilateral, commercial, and cultural events, including meetings with President Xi Jinping,” according to a White House press statement, but North Korea will undoubtedly be a prominent topic of discussion during Trump’s time there. Trade, as well, will also be a principle matter of discourse between the two leaders.

Danang, Vietnam (Nov 10)

On Nov 10, Trump will travel to Danang, Vietnam, where he will participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Economic Leaders’ Meeting and deliver a speech at the APEC CEO Summit. His speech will “present the United States’ vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific region and underscore the important role the region plays in advancing America’s economic prosperity,” according to a statement by the administration. President Trump’s speech at the summit might also possibly address his administration’s strategy for the Asia-Pacific region since his withdrawal from the TPP and communicate a response to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The US President will then travel to Hanoi, Vietnam on Nov 11 to visit President Tran Dai Quang and other senior Vietnamese leaders, according to the White House.

Manila, Philippines (Nov 12)

President Trump will arrive in Manila, Philippines on Nov 12, the final leg of his Asia-Pacific tour, to participate in the Special Gala Celebration Dinner for the 40th anniversary of US-ASEAN relations and participate in bilateral meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, whose controversial anti-drug campaign Trump has publicly commended. Specifics of the meetings are yet to be specified.

With all this in mind, the significance of Trump’s upcoming tour to Asia is difficult to overstate. The US President’s actions and words in the coming weeks will undoubtedly be noted, tracked, and interpreted as the precedent to Trump’s position towards Asia for the remainder of his time in office, and for this reason, we must watch carefully.

Related: President Trump : “The Friendship Between The US And Singapore Has Never Been Stronger”

Yeji is covering the White House.

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