WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump left the White House for the Group of 20 summit in Japan on a warm Wednesday afternoon as the possibility of military conflict with Iran and rumors of a possible third summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un added some mystery to the international confab.
Then there was the billion-dollar question as to whether the summit could see China and the United States de-escalate a trade war that heated up when Trump imposed tariffs on $250 billion of Chinese imports.
“The Chinese economy’s going down the tubes,” Trump told Fox Business Network anchor Maria Bartiromo during a call-in interview in the morning. “They want to make a deal more than I do.”
A senior administration official put it more gently when he told reporters, “Even as trade frictions persist, he’s got the opportunity to see where the Chinese side is since the talks last left off.”
Dispensing with the sort of diplomatic-speak usually heard among the international community as he headed for Marine One on the South Lawn, Trump announced that he would be meeting with many countries “many of whom have been taking advantage of the United States” for years.
When Air Force One touches down Thursday in Osaka, Japan, Trump is scheduled to have a working dinner with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and presidential adviser and daughter Ivanka Trump.
Trump will meet again with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who in May hosted Trump for a four-day state visit in Tokyo that included the honor of being the first foreign leader to meet Japan’s new emperor, Naruhito.
According to a senior administration official, Trump will participate in a trilateral meeting, the second of its kind, with Abe and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India.
The president also will meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Xi Jinping of China and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and President Vladimir Putin of Russia over the two-day summit that will span Friday and Saturday.
When a reporter asked Trump if he would warn Putin not to meddle in the 2020 elections, Trump responded, “I’ll have a very good conversation with him. What I say to him is none of your business.” While there is no formal agenda, other subjects of interest include Iran, Ukraine and Syria.
Late Saturday, Trump heads for Seoul where he will meet with South Korean President Moon Jae-In. Amid rumors that a third summit with Kim may be in the works, a reporter asked Trump if he would meet with Kim himself while in Seoul. “I may be speaking to him in a different form,” Trump answered.
Over the last week, Trump has told several journalists about a “very friendly” birthday greeting Kim had sent to him as he turned 73 on June 14.
On Sunday, Air Force One will head back to Washington.