Trump seeks new momentum with pivot to foreign policy

Trump seeks new momentum with pivot to foreign policy
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpChelsea Clinton announces birth of third child Ukrainian officials and Giuliani are sharing back-channel campaign information: report Trump attacks 'the Squad' as 'racist group of troublemakers' MORE, who has been embroiled in one of the most difficult stretches of his presidency, has a chance to win some positive headlines and build some new momentum in the coming weeks on foreign policy. 

Trump is set to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong UnKim Jong UnTrump and Pakistan's Khan are a lot alike — but can they master the art of any deals? Majority of voters aren't confident Trump's diplomacy will lead to North Korea denuclearization The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seizes House impeachment vote to rally GOP MORE next week in a sequel to one of the high marks of his time in office so far, his historic meeting with Kim in Singapore last June. 

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Separately, Trump faces a March 1 deadline to reach a deal with China in trade talks, or tariffs on imports from China will escalate — threatening to increase tensions between the two sides.

On yet another front, Trump is pressing Venezuela's government to end its embargo on Western aid from entering the country, giving the White House an opportunity to go on offense on the world stage.

A change in the news cycle would be welcome to Trump, who began the year with a prolonged partial government shutdown that delayed his State of the Union address and sunk his approval rating.

A week ago, he ended the fight with an emergency declaration at the border that looked like a political retreat and divided members of his own party. Trump won just a fraction of the money he had sought from Congress for his border wall, leading him to declare an emergency to get more money. That fight is now headed to the courts.

While Trump can be boxed in by Congress, and a Democratic-held House in particular, he has more latitude to pursue his agenda abroad — starting with the second summit with Kim in Hanoi on Feb. 27 and 28.

Trump has projected confidence about the meeting without detailing specific expectations, setting himself up to declare the talks a success just as he did last year following the summit in Singapore with few concrete commitments.

“We’ll be meeting with Chairman Kim for two days and I think we’ll accomplish a lot,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday during a meeting with the Austrian chancellor. “We started off with a very good meeting and I think we’ll continue that along. I don’t think this will be the last meeting by any chance, but I do think that the relationship is very strong.”

A day earlier, Trump told reporters that his ultimate goal is denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, but that he was in “no rush” to make that happen.

Daryl Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, said Trump will need to come away from next week’s meeting with a more tangible road map to denuclearization.

“The window for opportunity in reaching a diplomatic agreement to halt and reverse North Korean missile programs is not going to last forever,” he said. “This summit could be the last best opportunity Trump has to set the two countries on the right course.”

While Trump's goal to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula took shape in the middle of his first term, his pledge to secure improved trade deals dates back to his time on the campaign trail.

The U.S. and China have until March 1 to come to a comprehensive trade agreement before tariffs on Chinese imports increase from 10 percent to 25 percent. But there is much to do in little time, particularly given Trump's insistence that he meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping before signing off on any arrangement.

Trump has in recent weeks remained positive about the prospects for a final deal, and top representatives from both countries are set to meet on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The president has also signaled a willingness to extend talks, saying Tuesday that the March 1 deadline is “not a magical date.”

A successful arrangement would check off one of Trump's cornerstone campaign promises and boost confidence in the economy that could help carry him into the 2020 election, Stephen Moore, an informal economic adviser to the president and a senior fellow with the Heritage Foundation, told The Hill.

“I think that the China trade talks are everything he staked his presidency on,” said Moore, who is an opinion contributor for The Hill.

“He knows that he's got to get this deal done,” Moore added. “If he does get the deal done, I think he’s home free.”

While he must wait and see on China and North Korea, Trump has already earned bipartisan praise for his stance on Venezuela, where he recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country's legitimate leader and has pressured President Nicolás Maduro to step aside.

Trump denounced socialism and warned Maduro against clinging to power in a speech in Miami on Monday.

“We seek a peaceful transition of power, but all options are open,” Trump said. 

It is unclear how or when shipments of food and medicine will cross the Venezuelan border amid a blockade set up by Maduro, but Trump's firm stance has earned him backers at home and abroad.

Colombian President Iván Duque praised the coalition that has backed Guaidó in Venezuela and pledged that his country would receive humanitarian aid from the U.S. and other countries bound for Venezuela.

"We want to work together to put an end to the brutal dictatorship that has been affecting the Venezuelan people," he said during a visit to the White House last week. "I am very happy that the diplomatic blockade is working like no time before it, and I think the days for this dictatorship are about to end."