WASHINGTON (Washington Post, Reuters) - US President Donald Trump will visit five countries in Asia in November on a marathon trip that will be largely focused on his efforts to confront North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic missile programmes.
Mr Trump’s itinerary features a swing through the major powers in North-east Asia – Japan, South Korea and China – whose leaders he has met with several times already in a bid to develop a strategy to increase pressure on Pyongyang. The president also will participate in regional economic and security conferences in Vietnam and the Philippines, the White House announced on Friday (Sept 29). The trip will take place from Nov 3-14.
"The president's engagements will strengthen the international resolve to confront the North Korean threat and ensure the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula," it said in a statement.
Among the leaders Mr Trump could meet during his trip is Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is also expected to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Dà Nang, Vietnam. Mr Trump also will hold bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae In.
It is not clear whether Mr Trump intends to hold bilateral meetings with Vietnamese leaders or Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who is hosting the Association of South-east Asian Nations conference in Manila. Mr Duterte has come under international criticism for his administration’s brutal crackdown on drug trafficking, which has resulted in thousands of extrajudicial killings.
Mr Trump praised Mr Duterte’s drug war in a phone call in April during which the American president sought to enlist his counterpart to lobby China to put more pressure on North Korea.
Mr Trump announced last week that he had signed an executive action allowing the Treasury Department greater authority to sanction foreign businesses and individuals that conduct trade with North Korea, an effort to cut off funding that Mr Kim Jong Un’s regime could use for its weapons programmes.
That move followed Mr Trump’s speech at the United Nations General Assembly, in which he threatened to “totally destroy” the North if necessary and referred derisively to Mr Kim as the “rocket man".
Mr Kim lambasted Mr Trump in a rare direct address, and Pyongyang said the president’s speech amounted to a declaration of war, a charge the White House rejected.
On his trip, Mr Trump also is expected to focus on economics and trade. He has said his administration intends to attempt to renegotiate a bilateral trade deal with South Korea that was signed by President Barack Obama in 2011.
South Korean Foreign Minister Kang Kyung Wha called that trade deal the “economic tool that locks in a peaceful, prosperous future together” during an appearance at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies this week.