The Rollup on Trump’s Korea Leg of the Asia Trip
November 8, 2017
On his first trip to Asia since taking office, U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to the Republic of Korea (ROK) from November 7-8. It was the first state visit by a U.S. president in 25 years and the first visit by a foreign head of state hosted by South Korean president Moon Jae-in since he entered the Blue House in May 2017.
The State Visit culminated with a speech by President Trump to the ROK National Assembly. The U.S. president also made remarks at a state dinner hosted by President Moon and a press conference held jointly with the two leaders on the first day of the visit.
Key takeaways from the National Assembly speech:
- The speech was gracious in tone to the Korean hosts with historically rich passages celebrating South Korea’s miraculous economic development in the span of one generation.
- President Trump’s remarks also featured strong statements of support for the alliance and emphasized common democratic values shared between the two countries, evincing a deeper appreciation of the alliance’s history and importance than we have seen in previous statements.
- President Trump’s remarks featured a direct message to the North Korean leadership to open a path to diplomacy.
- He continued to assert a tough stance on deterrence and defense employing the full range of U.S. strategic and conventional capabilities, but the speech avoided any needlessly inflammatory language.
- Setting down markers for his meetings with Xi and Putin, Trump called out China and Russia specifically to do more on sanctions and framed the North Korea issue as a problem for the world.
- The speech did not offer a broader vision for Asia or feature any elucidation of the Indo-Pacific concept that was rolled out by the U.S. administration in recent weeks. We can expect the president to do this during his visits to Vietnam and the Philippines for the APEC and East Asia Summit, respectively.
- Contrary to expectations, the speech did not press publicly on fair and reciprocal trade between South Korea and the United States but this was undoubtedly a main topic of discussion behind closed doors.
- The White House press release this morning fleshed out a number of deliverables of the summit including revised missile guidelines, trilateral security cooperation with Japan, foreign direct investment (FDI), energy, and global health.