What To Watch For During President Trump’s Asia Trip : NPR
Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET
With news from the special counsel’s probe into Russian interference in the presidential election still swirling in Washington, President Trump is leaving Friday on his longest foreign trip to date.
The Asian odyssey will take him to five countries and two international summits. Trade issues and North Korea’s nuclear threat are likely to dominate the discussions. Here’s a quick primer on what to watch for at each stop:
After a stopover in Hawaii, Trump arrives in Tokyo where he’ll meet with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, as well as American and Japanese service members. He’ll also meet with the relatives of Japanese citizens who have been held prisoner in North Korea. Japan is alarmed by the increasingly aggressive moves of North Korea, including tests of ballistic missiles that have flown over Japanese territory.
During the campaign, Trump said he’d be willing to see Japan develop its own nuclear arsenal, upending decades of nonproliferation policy. Since taking office, Trump has reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to defend Japan, though aides say there is room for Japan to upgrade its own defense.
On a lighter note, Trump and Abe are both avid golfers, and they’re expected to play a round together in Tokyo.
Trump will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-in and deliver a speech to the National Assembly, where he’ll urge other countries to ramp up the pressure to halt North Korea’s nuclear program.
“President Trump will reiterate the plain fact that North Korea threatens not just our allies — South Korea and Japan — and the United States,” national security adviser H.R. McMaster said in a briefing on Thursday. “North Korea is a threat to the entire world, so all nations of the world must do more to counter that threat.”
Trump will also visit Camp Humphreys, a newly expanded military base 40 miles south of Seoul, which will eventually house many of the 28,500 U.S. troops in the country. South Korea paid most of the cost of developing the $11 billion base, and the Trump administration calls it a great example of “burden sharing.”
During the campaign, Trump questioned whether South Korea and other allies contribute enough to their own defense, although South Korea’s defense spending is relatively robust — about 2.5 percent of its total economy. President Moon has also called for eventually giving the South Korean military “operational control” of forces on the peninsula, including Americans, in the event of a conflict. The transfer of operational control has repeatedly been postponed.
Although U.S. presidents visiting Korea often tour the demilitarized zone, Trump will not do so. Aides cited time constraints and the president’s visit to Camp Humphreys.