Week ahead: North Korean threat to dominate Trump’s Asia trip
President Trump kicks off the week overseas on a 12-day Asia-Pacific trip to meet with regional leaders, with a heavy emphasis likely on curbing North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs.
The trip — which began Friday with a briefing from U.S. Pacific Command in Hawaii — comes as tensions on the Korean Peninsula are rising.
Trump’s longest overseas trip since he took office will include visits to China, Vietnam, Japan, the Philippines and South Korea. He will not stop at the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, as previously hinted. Trump instead will visit U.S. soldiers at Camp Humphreys outside the South Korean capitol of Seoul.
White House national security adviser H.R. McMaster said Thursday that while on the trip Trump will likely keep up his “fire and fury” rhetoric toward North Korea.
“I don’t think the president really modulates his language. Have you noticed him do that? I mean, he’s been very clear about it,” McMaster told reporters at the White House press briefing.
“I’ve been aware of the discussions about, ‘Hey, is this inflammatory?’ And what’s inflammatory is the North Korean regime and what they’re doing to threaten the world.”
McMaster also said that Trump “will use whatever language he wants to use” when speaking about the isolated nation.
“I think there would be a grave danger if that regime didn’t understand our resolve, the president’s resolve to counter North Korean aggression. And the president’s made it very clear.”
Several hours after the briefing Trump followed up in a Fox News interview that aired Thursday night.
“I must tell you North Korea’s a thing that I think we will solve and if we don’t solve it, it’s not going to be very pleasant for them. It’s not going to be very pleasant for anybody,” Trump told Fox News’s Laura Ingraham.
Trump also said during the interview that he might meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin during his Asia trip, in an effort to help curtail Pyongyang’s aggressive activities.
“We may have a meeting with Putin. And, again — Putin is very important because they can help us with North Korea,” he said.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will accompany Trump on part of the trip, before peeling away to represent the commander in chief at the East Asia Summit in Manila, according to the State Department.
Trump has contradicted Tillerson’s statements in the past, including last month when Tillerson suggested to reporters that the U.S. had a line of communication with North Korea. Trump took to Twitter shortly thereafter to dismiss efforts to negotiate with the country.
“Save your energy Rex, we’ll do what has to be done!” Trump tweeted at the time.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, meanwhile, has a trip to Europe this week, with stopovers in Finland, Belgium, and the United Kingdom to meet with top European defense leaders.
Mattis on Monday and Tuesday will meet with Northern Group, a multilateral forum of 12 European countries.
From Wednesday to Thursday, Mattis will attend a NATO Defense Ministerial and, separately, host a meeting of ministers from the coalition to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, according to the Defense Department.
The reired Marine Corps general will finish his trip in London where he will meet with his British counterpart, the United Kingdom’s newly named Secretary of State for Defense Gavin Williamson.
A number of House and Senate hearings as well as outside events are also on tap in the coming week:
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Robert Behler to be director of operational test and evaluation; Dean Winslow to be assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs; Thomas Modly to be undersecretary of the Navy; and James Geurts to be assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, room G-50.
The Senate Banking Committee will mark up North Korea sanctions legislation at 10 a.m. Tuesday at Dirksen 538.
A House Foreign Affairs Committee subpanel will hold a hearing on democracy and governance in the Middle East and North Africa with outside experts at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the Rayburn House Office Building, room 2172.
Two House Foreign Affairs subpanels will host a joint hearing on Russia and counterterrorism with testimony from outside experts at 2 p.m. Tuesday at Rayburn 2172.
Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy will speak at the Association of the United Sates Army breakfast series at 7 a.m. Wednesday at the association’s General Gordon R. Sullivan Conference & Event Center in Arlington, Va.
Two Foreign Affairs subcommittees will hold a joint hearing on the administration’s plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan with testimony from State Department and USAID officials at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172.
A House Foreign Affairs subcommittee will hold a hearing on the anti-narcotics trafficking Kingpin Act at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Rayburn 2172.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Kirstjen Nielsen to be Homeland Security secretary at 10 a.m. Wednesday at Dirksen 342.
House Armed Services Committee members Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), as well as Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson and the White House cybersecurity czar will speak beginning at 7 a.m. at the Defense One Summit at the Marriott Marquis in Washington.
A Foreign Affairs subpanel will hold a hearing on the political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo with testimony from State Department and USAID officials at 10 a.m. Thursday at Rayburn 2172.
The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Robert McMahon to be assistant secretary of Defense for defense, logistics and materiel readiness; Bruce Jette to be assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, technology and logistics; and Shon Manasco to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs at 10 a.m. Thursday at Dirksen G-50.
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