Trump embarks on Asia mission, his toughest challenge yet

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US President Donald Trump —AP

Donald Trump will launch what is being billed as the trickiest diplomatic mission in decades this weekend, when he arrives in Asia for a five-country trip. Two issues will dominate the US president’s Asia tour: Nuclear North Korea and trade.

On the eve of Trump’s trip, the US excluded China’s Bank of Dandong from its financial system, alleging it was helping North Korea evade financial sanctions to launder funds. Trump has demanded that Beijing do more to push Pyongyang to halt its efforts to build nuclear missiles capable of reaching American cities.In another show of force on Thursday, the US flew two B-1B bombers over South Korea.

Trump will arrive in Seoul on November 7 (Tuesday) for two days of talks.

His next stop will be Beijing on Wednesday, where trade will also be top of the agenda. China Daily reports that Trump’s three-day trip to China is should yield positive results for bilateral ties, with Beijing officials expecting a number of major business deals to be signed.

Trump last week hailed the “extraordinary elevation” of Xi Jinping, after China’s president cemented his power for a second five-year term at a Communist Party Congress that enshrined his “thought” alongside that of Mao Zedong’s in the constitution.

Experts say Trump was seeking to woo Xi before trying to strike a deal over North Korea during his visit.

“It’s classic Trump,” Paul Haenle, a veteran US diplomat who advised both George W Bush and Barack Obama on China, told the Guardian. “Trump’s play very well to a Chinese domestic audience. I think ultimately what he is trying to do is preserve that good personal rapport with Xi which he thinks he will be able to do more with from a negotiating standpoint.”

Tensions over trade will play a large role in those negotiations.

Trump this week branded the $347-billion trade deficit between the United States and China “embarrassing”, telling Cabinet officials that every trade deal America is involved in is “disastrous”. During his election campaign Trump repeatedly slammed China’s economic policies, saying they were responsible for “stealing” US manufacturing jobs. He also accused China of devaluing its currency to keep the price of Chinese exports to America low, thus widening the trade gap.

Chinese officials, though, remain upbeat about the trade opportunities Trump’s trip will bring.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross will lead a delegation of American business leaders during Trump’s visit, and the two sides will sign a number of deals, Fu Ziying, China’s international trade representative and vice-minister of commerce, told China Daily on Thursday.

“We expect that through President Trump’s visit, the two sides will achieve positive, pragmatic, mutually beneficial and balanced results,” Fu said, before blaming Washington for the trade gap.

The trade imbalance between China and the US, the world’s two largest economies, is largely caused by US curbs on exports of many high-tech products to China, he said, adding that Sino-US trade is completely determined by the markets and consumers of the two sides. According to China’s Commerce Ministry, US exports to China grew by an average of 11 per cent over the past decade, much higher than the overall growth of 4 per cent in US exports during the same period.

Jin Yong, an expert in International Studies at the Communication University of China, told China Daily the visit would bring greater consensus between Beijing and Washington on issues of trade and the Korean Peninsula.

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