The busy itinerary will see Trump travelling all across Northeast and Southeast Asia, with the first leg of his tour likely focusing on North Korea and trade, while the second half will continue with the trade theme but include discussions on the South China Sea. In a sense, this entire trip is about China in one way or another. The Northeast Asian component seeks to organize a coordinated response to China's wayward North Korean ally, possibly by bringing Beijing on board in one capacity or another. It also, however, aims to strengthen the US' trade ties with its two mutual defense partners in Japan and South Korea, while taking China to task for the "unfair trade practices" and "currency manipulation" that the Trump Administration regularly accuses it of. More than likely, the President will try to link the North Korean and trade issues in order to squeeze some sort of concessions out of China.
Pertaining to the Southeast Asian vector of Trump's upcoming trip, there's speculation that the American leader might meet with his Russian counterpart in Vietnam on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference forum, or APEC. Even in the event that this doesn't happen, Trump will try to strengthen the US' rapprochement with its Cold War-era Vietnamese foe out of the shared interest that the two countries have in "containing" China in the South China Sea. Moreover, Vietnam was a party to the scrapped Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, trade talks, so the President might try to restart bilateral economic negotiations between the two sides on a possible free trade treaty, such as what he vaguely promised in January when he cancelled the TPP. As for the Philippine segment of his grand Asian tour, Trump will meet with his firebrand counterpart Rodrigo Duterte and probably discuss anti-Daesh cooperation and South China Sea coordination, alongside expected economic topics.
Taken together, each part of Trump's upcoming Asia trip will contribute to the formulation of his administration's own "Pivot to Asia", one which expands off of the Southeast Asian-centric focus of his predecessor and utilizes a combination of carrots, sticks, and proxy forces to "contain" China.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Louis Lim, international management consultant and former university lecturer on Asian Management who has seen and participated in Asian economic development since the seventies, and Kevin Borbon, practicing research analyst and social media commentator from Manila who focuses on domestic and international issues.
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