President Donald Trump will stop in China and South Korea — two countries key to his standoff with North Korea — next month during his first Asia swing, a trip that also will feature one-on-one meetings in the Philippines with that country’s hardline leader.
Trump is slated to depart on an 11-day swing through the continent on Nov. 3, with the main event to be his participation in an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam.
But with the volatile North Korea situation creating tensions across the Asia-Pacific region and the world as two nuclear-armed states square off, Trump will stop in Japan, South Korea and China. During meetings with the leaders of those countries, what to do about the North’s atomic arsenal and long-range missile programs will be a major topic.
He is slated to huddle one-on-one with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (Nov. 5) and South Korean President Moon Jae-in (Nov. 7), two countries partially dependent on U.S. protection from North Korea’s military and nuclear arms.
But Chinese President Xi Jinping is seen by experts and lawmakers who follow global affairs as the one world leader Trump most needs to pressure Pyongyang; China is the North’s lone remaining close ally.
The White House on Monday said the president plans to use the trip to “underscore his commitment to longstanding United States alliances and partnerships, and reaffirm United States leadership in promoting a free and open Indo-Pacific region.”
During a speech at APEC, Trump intends to “underscore the important role the region plays in advancing America’s economic prosperity,” the White House said.
The most controversial part of the trip will be his planned one-on-one meetings with President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines during a stop there. That meeting will come on the final day of the president’s trip, Nov. 14.
The White House earlier this year invited Duterte to the White House, a move that drew widespread criticism from human rights groups and congressional Democrats. Duterte declined the invitation. The Philippine leader has presided over a government crackdown of drug dealers and users, including extrajudicial kilings and other human rights abuses.
In an April 29 phone call with the Philippine president, Trump praised the tactics.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” Trump said, according to a leaked transcript of the call. “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.”
Trump would also be able to check in on the progress of the soon-to-open Trump Tower Manila.