The rhetoric has escalated as Mr. Trump has vowed to “totally destroy” North Korea if forced to defend the United States or its allies and has mocked its leader, Kim Jong-un, as “Little Rocket Man.” Mr. Kim has responded by calling Mr. Trump a “mentally deranged U.S. dotard” and his government has threatened to conduct an atmospheric nuclear test, which would be the first the world has seen in 37 years.
While rattling sabers, Mr. Trump for the moment has stuck to a strategy of increasing economic pressure and strengthening regional solidarity. He hosted the leaders of Japan and South Korea at the United Nations and spoke by phone with the leader of China earlier this month even as he ordered a sweeping new set of sanctions intended to cut North Korea off from the international banking system.
His trip will be his first to Asia since taking office and will be flavored by other tensions. In one of his first acts as president, he abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership that President Barack Obama had negotiated to create a 12-nation free trade zone; three of the nations he will visit were part of that pact: Vietnam, South Korea and Japan. Mr. Trump has also repeatedly threatened trade action against China, which he accuses of cheating the United States, and vowed to withdraw from a trade deal with South Korea unless it is renegotiated.
Mr. Trump’s stop in the Philippines will also draw heavy notice, especially from human rights groups that denounce the practices of President Rodrigo Duterte, whose government has sanctioned deadly attacks on drug suspects. Thousands of people have died in extrajudicial killings without arrest or trial, according to human rights groups, and the State Department has criticized what it called the “apparent governmental disregard for human rights and due process.”
While Mr. Obama snubbed Mr. Duterte, Mr. Trump has embraced him. In a telephone call in April, he praised Mr. Duterte’s “unbelievable job on the drug problem,” according to a transcript produced by the Philippine government. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that,” the transcript recorded him saying.
Continue reading the main storySource: New York Times – Politics