Balance of Power: Trump in a Bind on China
(Bloomberg) -- Donald Trump’s honeymoon with China was always precarious.
The U.S. president has been courting Beijing to help rein in North Korea over its weapons program ever since he hosted President Xi Jinping in April. But yesterday his frustrations with both countries emerged, hours before he dined with South Korea’s new president in Washington.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin fired the first salvo, announcing sanctions on a relatively small Chinese bank and shipping company for being “North Korea’s external enablers.” Hours later, the administration approved a $1.3 billion arms package for Taiwan, a modest move that nevertheless annoyed China.
The shift in U.S. tone began last week after the death of Otto Warmbier, a U.S. student who was held in North Korea for over a year. On Twitter, Trump said China’s efforts on North Korea have “not worked out.”
Trump will try to paper over differences with South Korea on how to deal with Pyongyang when he holds talks with President Moon Jae-in at the White House today. But even if he gets Moon onside, Trump can’t afford to irk China too much. Beijing, as the economic lifeline for North Korea, remains the best route to reclusive leader Kim Jong Un.
New Trump travel ban challenge | Trump’s revised ban faces a fresh court test after the restrictions on refugees and immigrants from six predominantly Muslim countries took effect last night. The state of Hawaii asked a judge to decide if the government violated instructions from the U.S. Supreme Court in defining which types of family members are covered by the rules.
The Putin test | The top question for Trump as he heads into his first meeting with Vladimir Putin next week is how much he’s willing to confront a Russian president whose meddling in the 2016 election may have helped him win. As Justin Sink reports, Trump will be under intense pressure to demonstrate that he’s not the Putin “puppet” Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton labeled him.
Merkel’s gay marriage maneuver | Germany’s parliament legalized same-sex marriage after Angela Merkel unexpectedly dropped her party’s traditional objection to such unions — while voting against the measure herself. It's a classic tactic for a leader in power nearly 12 years. By letting her lawmakers decide with their conscience she gets an outcome that’s popular with the public. But by voting against it herself, she can keep her party onside three months before national elections.
Abe looks to stop the bleeding | With his popularity slumping after a series of scandals, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe faces a referendum on his leadership Sunday when voters in Tokyo pick a new assembly. Polls show a tight race with a group led by Governor Yuriko Koike, who resigned from his ruling party this month.
Xi reassures Hong Kong | The Chinese president maintained a relatively soft tone during his first tour of Hong Kong as leader, pledging support for the city’s development — though he also sent a reminder of China’s clout by inspecting mainland troops based there. Democracy advocates were unswayed, urging mass protests tomorrow to highlight the former British colony’s desire for more autonomy.
May’s awkward alliance | Prime Minister Theresa May secured parliament’s approval for her legislative program yesterday, but a series of compromises — including a forced concession on abortion rights — raises fresh questions about her ability to see Brexit through to the finish line. The process revealed the level of disquiet within her own party at how May has tied herself to an alliance with a handful of religiously conservative lawmakers in Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party.
And finally... Just how much do Brazilian lawmakers really care about corruption? That’s the question raised in the country’s capital yesterday after just a handful showed up in Congress to hear charges read out against President Michel Temer. The low turnout suggests a lack of appetite to put him on trial — and risk his administration’s reform agenda in the process. Two-thirds of the lower house must sign off on the accusations for a hearing to go ahead.