What we learned about Trump during Asia tour

What we learned about Trump during Asia tour

"It's been a great 12 days," Donald Trump declared at the end of his five-nation tour. "A lot of great things have happened for our country and, I think, for the world."



For the President personally, this has been a good 12 days.


He has cut a more restrained figure, shown that he can stick, for the most part, to the script, and managed to avoid any major diplomatic incidents, not least the fate of the last US leader (George HW Bush) to spend this length of time in the region - vomiting on the Japanese prime minister.


For the US position in Asia, however, it has been less of a success.


Trump's 'America First' message might go down well with his base back home, but it does little to reassure allies here that the US is not turning its back on regional leadership and engagement, at a time when China is making its presence and its overseas investment felt.


So what else did we learn about Donald Trump during his travels in Asia?


He responds well to flattery



Chinese children wave to Mr Trump after he arrives in Beijing

Image: Chinese children wave to Mr Trump after he arrives in Beijing

Not a shock, granted. Extreme flattery seemed to have been adopted as the preferred tactic among Trump's hosts across the region, and it worked, with the President raving afresh each time about the reception he had received.


Special mention here must go to South Korea, where the presidential limousine was escorted, on foot, through the streets of Seoul by a ceremonial guard, and he was introduced as the "leader of the world".


President Moon also publicly congratulated him on his "great progress on making America great again".


China also scored highly in this category, laying on what was described as a "state visit plus", with dinner and private opera inside the Forbidden City, and ranks of jumping, cheering children.


"It was a red carpet like nobody, I think, has probably ever seen," Donald Trump declared approvingly.


He cannot let perceived slights pass



President Trump answers questions on board Air Force One

Image: President Trump answers questions on board Air Force One

Again, not exactly news, but as he was questioned by reporters on Air Force One about how he would deal with the newly empowered leaders of Japan and China, Donald Trump interrupted: "Excuse me, so am I."


Overlooking his record low approval ratings and domestic political troubles, Mr Trump cited gains on the US stock market and unemployment numbers, in what would become a regular refrain throughout the trip.


This inability to let insults lie reared its head again in Vietnam, as the President unburdened himself in a blaze of tweets, lashing out at Kim Jong Un as "short and fat" after being called an old lunatic by North Korean state media, and attacking "haters and fools" over his relationship with Vladimir Putin.


No matter who he is talking to, he will tell them about the US stock market



Troops were among those informed about the US stock market

Image: Troops were among those informed about the US stock market

Having seized upon this good news story on the outbound leg, President Trump proceeded to tell what seemed like every person he encountered about it.


He did it during bilateral summits with Prime Minister Abe of Japan, President Moon of South Korea, on stage in Vietnam, and even while sitting down to lunch with American troops at a military base.


In all cases, the audience appeared to nod along politely, while presumably wondering what this had to do with them, or indeed, Donald Trump.


The koi carp incident was not his fault



Trump dumps Koi carp food

Video: Fishy friends: Trump and Abe feed koi carp

The story was so easy to believe - President Trump, during a photocall with Mr Abe, had lost patience while carefully feeding the palace koi, upending his container into the pond.


Further video evidence showed the Japanese PM had tipped his fish food out first, and Mr Trump was simply following his lead.


His policy on North Korea is still unclear




U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania arrive on Air Force One at Beijing, China

Video: Trump challenges China over North Korea

There had been fears that Trump might stoke tensions on the Korean Peninsula during his visit, or that Kim Jong Un might take the opportunity to test a missile nearby. In the event, neither transpired.


We will never know what might have happened had heavy fog not forced President Trump's helicopter back during his attempt to visit the DMZ (Demilitarised Zone), but his rhetoric in the region has been substantially toned down from his previous threats of "fire and fury".


Instead, the President started talking about a deal and the possibility of Kim "someday" becoming his friend.



FILE PHOTO: Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. The missiles themselves were shown for the first time inside a new kind of canister-based launcher on Saturday

Image: Pyongyang's nuclear ambitions remain an urgent problem for the President

The strategy seems to vacillate between personal insults, threats of force, and now talk of negotiations, while insisting China could solve this "quickly and easily" if it wanted to, which remains untrue.


China could cut off oil supplies and cripple the economy, but there is no evidence this would solve the problem and every danger this would cause the Kim regime to cling even tighter to its nukes.


Three US aircraft carriers conducted exercises in the Pacific during the visit, for the first time in a decade, but defence secretary James Mattis said there was "no big message".


He sees a smaller role for America in the world



Mr Trump addresses the APEC summit in Vietname

Image: Mr Trump put trade at the heart of his address at the APEC summit in Vietnam

"After my tour of Asia, all countries dealing with us on TRADE know that the rules have changed."


That might be what Donald Trump said, but what many countries here will have heard was that TRADE with the US is about to get harder, and that under his leadership, the US will never sign another multi-national trade deal.


Meanwhile, the 11 remaining signatories to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which President Trump withdrew from in his first days in office, announced they would continue to pursue the free trade deal without the US.


He is not going to stand up for human rights



Xi Jinping smiling when walking with US President to state dinner during Asia tour

Image: Xi Jinping has promised a 'new era' in China

Standing alongside Xi Jinping, who is currently presiding over China's most serious crackdown on human rights in decades, in whose state's custody a Nobel peace laureate died this summer, and whose widow remains missing, Donald Trump opted not to mention human rights.


We would have asked him about it, but the US had acceded to the Chinese "insistence" that no questions from the press be allowed.



Rodrigo Duterte sings to Donald Trump

Video: Duterte sings love song to Trump

This continued in Vietnam and the Philippines, where there was no public mention of the thousands of people, including scores of children, who have died so far in President Rodrigo Duterte's "war on drugs".


The White House said they touched on the issue during private talks, Mr Duterte's spokesman said they didn't.


He really wants us to use the term "Indo-Pacific"



The two leaders both worse blue shirts

Video: Matching outfits and warm handshake for Trump and Putin

There seems to be a push to replace "Asia-Pacific" with "Indo-Pacific", highlighting India's rise, in part to balance China, and broadening the scope of the region to include South and East Asia.


The term has been used sporadically in diplomatic and academic circles previously, and mentioned by Hillary Clinton at least twice.


But despite the President's repeated efforts during this trip, there is no evidence thus far that it is catching on.


You can fall into a bunker during a round of golf without him noticing



Moment Japanese PM Shinzo Abe apparently tumbles into a bunker while playing golf with Donald Trump

Video: Japan's PM tumbles in bunker

Just ask Shinzo Abe, the Japanese PM, who managed to tumble into a bunker, climb back out again and dust himself off, as Trump strolled ahead on the fairway, apparently oblivious.


For many in the press corps, this remains the enduring image of the trip.