WASHINGTON – On his 12-day trip to Asia next month, President Trump plans to pressure world leaders to help curb North Korea's nuclear weapons program, complain about Chinese trade practices – and, possibly, play a round of golf in Japan.
What's still uncertain: Whether Trump will visit the de-militarized zone (DMZ) between South and North Korea, and if he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of an economic summit.
"The President’s travel 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," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.
While aides said Trump is still working on the details of his schedule, the government of Japan announced the president would play a round of golf with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Japanese golf star Hideki Matsuyama on Nov. 5.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity because the schedule is not yet final, could not confirm the Trump-Abe outing – but noted that both leaders enjoy golf and the president is open to the idea.
Trump's potential visit to the Korean DMZ, a standard stop for presidents, is up in the air because he has a crowded two-day schedule that includes a speech to the South Korean National Assembly and visit to a U.S. military base about 70 miles south of Seoul.
The speech to the National Assembly "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," Sanders said.
The administration is also working on a meeting schedule at another big event on the trip, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Vietnam.
One possible meeting on sidelines at APEC: Russia's Putin. A special counsel and congressional committees are investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates – and any meeting between Trump and Putin would be highly scrutinized.
So far, the president is scheduled to visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, and the Philippines from Nov. 3-14. The last two countries feature Asian economic conferences, APEC in Vietnam and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the Philippines.
The primary topic of Trump's Asia travels: North Korea's nuclear threats.
Trump is trying to convince neighboring countries, particularly China, into pressuring North Korea into giving up its nuclear weapons program.
In recent months, Trump has also promised to rain down "fire and fury" on the government of Kim Jong Un – whom the president has dubbed "Little Rocket Man" – if it attacks the U.S. or its interests. The threats have unnerved Asian allies who fear the rhetoric could lead to some kind of military confrontation.
Trade is another priority on Trump's Asian travels. The president has protested what he claims are unfair trade practices by China, South Korea, and other Asian nations – the results of "bad trade deals" that have enabled U.S. companies to move jobs overseas.
Two months ago, Trump directed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to determine whether an investigation is needed into alleged unfair Chinese trade practices, a potential subject of talks with China President Xi Jinping. In particular, U.S. companies have accused China of intellectual property theft, including through the use of cyber espionage.
During his presidential campaign, Trump accused China of manipulating currency values to seek trade advantages. He has backed off those claims since moving into the White House, partly in an effort to persuade China to put economic pressure on North Korea.
China has said it is playing by global trade rules.
Trump has also talked about re-working parts of the U.S. free trade agreement with South Korea – a dicey topic in that the president is also seeking South Korea's help in dealing with North Korea.
En route to Japan at the start of his trip, Trump will also make a stop in Hawaii, where he will receive a briefing from the U.S. Pacific Command and tour the Pearl Harbor memorial.
Trump will meet with the leaders of every country he visits. That includes Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, whose war on drugs has included summary executions and has drawn condemnation from human rights groups worldwide.
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