Trump turns to East to salvage prestige at home

By Sajjad Malik
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, November 8, 2017
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U.S. President Donald Trump [Xinhua]

President Donald Trump is visiting five Asian countries at crucial time when substantial progress is emerging in the probe about the alleged links between his campaign team and Russia.

Trump has repeatedly called the allegations and the probe into them as a witch hunt prompted by powerful opponents with ties to the political establishment. However, he has failed to stop the process, and special counsel Robert Mueller has now issued the first indictments relating to Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

Amidst the raging controversy about Trump being the direct or indirect beneficiary of Russian interference, the president has embarked on crucial visits to five key Asian countries -- Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The tour brings him face to face with his key allies as well as the most important challenges in the Asia-Pacific region. The tour, lasting almost two weeks, will surely test his physical and diplomatic prowess.

It could be exhausting due to the large amount of travels and a packed schedule. George H. W. Bush became ill towards the end of such a long tour in 1992, ending up vomiting in the lap of Japanese premier Kiichi Miyazawa during a banquet.

It was an occasion of much embarrassment for Mr. Bush and his entourage, while back home it provided steamy stuff for jokesters. Trump might be aware of it and started his tour in Japan where he played golf with host Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to show his fitness and agility.

Any sign of weariness, sickness or unintentional gaffe will certainly be lapped eagerly by Trump’s enemies and used to sully his image and achievements during the trip. Hence, he needs to be extra careful while making off-the-cuff remarks or speaking extempore.

Japan provides the kind of venue needed for Trump to relax and get rid of the endless scandal-related media coverage in the United States. However, his travel from Japan to South Korea to China and onwards increases the nature and scale of the challenges.

The president needs to provide satisfactory answers to South Korean host, President Moon Jae-in, about serious security concerns in the wake of bellicose statements and actions by the leader of North Korea Kim Jong-un.

The most important stop of U.S. leader is in China on November 8-10. Trump meets Xi Jinping who last month successfully oversaw the 19th National Congress of the CPC and gained a comprehensive mandate to continue leading his people. In contrast, Trump has been rendered weak due to continuous political troubles.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang told media last Friday that the Xi-Trump meeting is expected to map out a blueprint for the development of bilateral ties in a new era. The two will discuss security, economic, trade and political matters.

Any decision to manage the North Korean issue, or winning a deal to improve bilateral trade heavily weighted in China's favor, could be a respite for Trump who could use it to blunt domestic criticism and exhibit his foreign policy prowess.

Yet, there is no tailor-made solution for either the trade or security problems. According to Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang, the trade imbalance requires expanding U.S. exports to China and increasing two-way investment, rather than restricting imports from China. This is clearly something that cannot be addressed in days or weeks.

On North Korea, China has made it clear it favors denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, with the issue being solved by peaceful means. For China, peace and stability in that region is vital, as any confrontation would have direct impact on it.

In Vietnam, Mr. Trump will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in the city of Da Nang, and then pay a state visit to Hanoi. His Asia tour ends in Manila, where exchanges with Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte will be interesting to watch, as former U.S. leader Barack Obama last year avoided any interaction with him after highly objectionable anti-American outburst by Duterte.

Apart from interaction with the leaders of host nations, Trump is expected to talk with Russian leader Vladimir Putin in Da Nang. This will be their second meeting after they held talks on the sidelines of G20 summit in Germany last July.

Russian support is essential for peaceful resolution of not only the North Korea issue, but also the ongoing Syrian conflict. It is unlikely that Putin will yield any ground on important issues or try to give America an easy out on either Korean or Syrian front.

The Asia tour may bring some momentary respite for Trump, but it’s not going to get rid of domestic political worries. The Russia gate saga is gathering momentum and taking a more concrete shape. How it will unravel with what consequences is anybody’s guess. However, Trump will have to wade through it before settling down to steering his four-year presidential term.

Sajjad Malik is a columnist with For more information please visit:

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of

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