Trump in Japan for G-20 Talks 06/27 06:11
President Donald Trump on Thursday began what is likely his most
consequential overseas trip of the year, one that will present the "America
First" president with a flurry of international crises, tense negotiations and
a growing global to-do list.
OSAKA, Japan (AP) -- President Donald Trump on Thursday began what is likely
his most consequential overseas trip of the year, one that will present the
"America First" president with a flurry of international crises, tense
negotiations and a growing global to-do list.
Trump landed in Osaka, Japan, for the annual Group of 20 summit amid a
tropical cyclone that is predicted to turn into a typhoon --- a possible
metaphor for the four days of high-stakes diplomacy that lie ahead. As his
re-election bid heats up, Trump was eager to produce breakthroughs on a series
of foreign policy challenges including the showdown between the U.S. and Iran,
a trade war with China, the threat of fresh election interference by Russia and
stalled nuclear talks with North Korea.
As he faces mounting pressures to deliver results, the president will meet
one-on-one with at least eight world leaders on the summit's sidelines
beginning with dinner with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. The agenda
for his four days in Asia is as laden with hazards for the president as it is
light on the ceremonial pomp that marked his recent state visits to Japan and
the United Kingdom.
But White House officials are playing down prospects of specific
accomplishments in what is the president's third international trip in a month,
even as Trump himself said of his "competitors" from other nations: "That's OK.
We're doing great. We're doing better than any of them."
The week was set up to deliver a remarkable split-screen dynamic in American
politics: While Trump is in Asia, the Democrats vying to replace him next year
are holding their first primary debates. As Air Force One soared toward Japan,
Trump delivered a succinct review on Twitter of part 1 of a two-night debate:
Later, the president, ever the media critic, repeatedly mocked NBC for an
audio malfunction that briefly interrupted the proceedings.
His itinerary in Osaka includes sit-downs with Russian President Vladimir
Putin, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Saudi
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, all of whom have authoritarian tendencies, as
well as disquieted allies including Germany's Angela Merkel and more contented
ones such as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
The summit will be a test of both Trump's go-it-alone style as well as his
"America First" doctrine that has frustrated traditional allies over disputes
on defense spending and trade and set the United States apart from global
consensus on how to deal with international concerns like climate change and
Iran's nuclear program.
The president, who has shown little patience for the subtleties of global
interactions and whose administration has struggled to grapple with
simultaneous challenges, left Washington days after pulling back from the brink
of armed conflict with Iran and as he trades threats over its nuclear program
and support for terror groups. With Iran threatening to breach uranium
enrichment limits set in the 2015 nuclear accord as soon as Thursday, Trump
will be asked to articulate his strategy for containing Iran to skeptical world
leaders after pulling the U.S. from the deal last year.
Trump will also find himself face-to-face with Putin for the first time
since special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation ended without finding
evidence that the Trump campaign criminally conspired with Russia during the
2016 election. It will also be their first meeting since their summit in
Helsinki in July 2018, when Trump declined to side with U.S. intelligence
agencies over Putin on the question of election interference, leading to an
uproar at home and abroad.
Trump told reporters as he left the White House that he expects a "very good
conversation" with Putin but added that "what I say to him is none of your
business." His aides have grown worried that Trump may use the meeting to once
again attack the Mueller probe, particularly since the special counsel now has
a date to testify before Congress next month.
Last November, Trump canceled a planned meeting with Putin at the G-20 in
Argentina after Russia seized two Ukrainian vessels and their crew in the Sea
of Azov, but the continued detention of the crew members does not appear to be
deterring the leaders from meeting this time. Aside from Iran, the leaders are
expected to discuss hotspots in Syria and Venezuela, as well as nuclear weapons.
White House officials said there are no plans for a meeting in South Korea
between Trump and North Korea's Kim Jong Un, with whom the president has
restarted diplomacy-by-correspondence since their failed Hanoi summit in March.
But there was speculation that the president would make another attempt to
travel to the Demilitarized Zone between the Koreas after fog prevented him
from taking a helicopter there in November 2017.
Trump is to speak with South Korean President Moon Jae-in about efforts to
bring North Korea back to the negotiating table as the American holds out hope
for an elusive legacy-making nuclear deal. Moon told The Associated Press and
other news agencies Wednesday that the U.S. and North Korea are holding
"behind-the-scenes talks" to arrange a third summit between the two leaders.
With Xi, a senior administration official said, Trump's top aim will be
rebooting trade negotiations between the two countries after they collapsed
earlier this year. In an interview with Fox Business Network on Wednesday,
Trump threatened again to impose even stiffer tariffs on Chinese imports to the
U.S. if talks remain stalemated. But officials in both nations are looking for
an off-ramp as concerns mount about the economic impact of the yearlong trade
Trump will also meet with the Saudi crown prince, who U.S. intelligence
services concluded ordered the grisly killing of Washington Post columnist
Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S. resident. Despite the killing, Trump has continued to
pursue a close relationship with Saudi Arabia, a lynchpin to the U.S. Middle
East strategy to counter Iran over its support of militant groups, its nuclear
program and role in furthering humanitarian disaster in Yemen's civil war.
On the eve of the trip, Trump showed a willingness to deliver broadsides at
American allies, questioning the fairness of a mutual defense treaty with
Japan, a bedrock of the two nations' alliance, while also tweeting a complaint
about the tariffs India has placed on U.S. goods.
Never fully willing to pass up domestic politics, even when overseas, Trump
will have to divide his attention between affairs of state and the debates. He
will be in meetings with world leaders when Democratic front-runner Joe Biden
and others take the debate stage on Thursday night. Trump aides believe the
scheduling fluke will highlight the signature advantage of incumbency --- that
the president already occupies the job the Democrats want.