As Russia probe intensifies, Trump leaves for key 12-day Asia trip

As Russia probe intensifies, Trump leaves for key 12-day Asia trip

The US president begins his trip to East Asia today, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and

Donald Trump on steps to Air Force one ahead of foreign trip

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty

The US president begins his trip to East Asia today, where he will visit Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. He will attend the ASEAN summit in Manila and the APEC meeting in Danang.

The White House says North Korea will top the agenda amid rumours of a fresh missile test while Trump is in the region. To address the issue, Washington has deployed three carrier strike groups to the region, and Trump may press Chinese President Xi Jinping to implement tougher sanctions on Pyongyang, including limits on oil exports.

Trump likely hopes that the trip will distract attention from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into his campaign links to Russia. Most recently, former campaign foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russians.

Yet, the president’s advisors fear such distraction could backfire: a new gaffe could undermine US goals abroad. Aides fear he will heap praise on authoritarian leaders, like Xi and Rodrigo Duterte, upsetting key allies in the strategically sensitive region and emboldening those leaders’ policies. Expect the trip to only provide a temporary relief from Trump’s domestic headaches and potentially create new international ones.

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