politics

Trump to Meet Duterte on Asia Trip, and Maybe Putin Too

Updated on
  • President leaves Nov. 3 to visit 5 Asian countries and Hawaii
  • North Korea crisis, economic relations key themes on agenda

Rodrigo Duterte

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

President Donald Trump will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and may meet Russian President Vladimir Putin during a 12-day trip to Asia and Hawaii in November, a White House official said.

Trump also is likely to visit a U.S. Army base in South Korea, Camp Humphreys, instead of the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea in a trip that will focus on maximizing pressure on Pyongyang to abandon its missile and nuclear programs, said the official. A visit to the DMZ hasn’t been ruled out, said the official, who briefed reporters at the White House on the Nov. 3-14 trip on condition of anonymity.

Many of Trump’s predecessors have taken the opportunity to visit one of the world’s most heavily fortified borders during their trips to South Korea. President Bill Clinton memorably walked partially down the Bridge of No Return crossing the military demarcation line between North and South Korea. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush and Barack Obama peered into North Korea with the aid of binoculars. President George H.W. Bush is the only U.S. leader since Reagan’s visit in 1983 not to have stopped at the DMZ as president, though Bush did visit while serving as Reagan’s vice president. 

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Mike Pence and his family at the truce village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone in April 2017.

Photographer: SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg

Trump’s vice president, Mike Pence, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went to the border during their visits to South Korea earlier this year. The official said Trump was unlikely to have time to visit both the DMZ and Camp Humphreys.

Humphreys, a facility largely paid for by the South Koreans, was a good example of cost-sharing, a principle the president has stressed with U.S. allies, the official said.

Trade and economic relations will be the other key priority for the trip, which will be Trump’s longest foreign journey to date as president and take him to five countries and two regional summits, the official said. Trump plans to visit South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam and the Philippines after first stopping in Hawaii for a briefing from the U.S. military’s Pacific Command.

In China, the official said, the president plans to stress fair and reciprocal trade and economic relations. Among the issues the president plans to raise are forced technology transfer, intellectual property theft, and reciprocal treatment for U.S. services companies seeking to invest in China, the White House said.

The trip will be Trump’s first foray to Asia as president, and it takes place amid escalating tension in the region over North Korea’s weapons programs. It will come just after Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ruling coalition was returned to power in parliamentary elections and Chinese President Xi Jinping further consolidated his power in his country’s party congress, which occurs once every five years.

Trump would send a clear message on human rights principles in his meeting with Duterte, the official said. Duterte has been criticized over extrajudicial killings in the Philippines as part of his crackdown on the drug trade. Trump has previously offered praise for Duterte, telling the leader on a private phone call that he he had done “an unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to a transcript of the conversation obtained by the Washington Post. 

Obama canceled a scheduled visit with Duterte during his final visit to Asia after the Filipino leader said it would be “rude” to raise human rights issues in their conversations and referred to the former president by a vulgar epithet.

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