NEWS ROUNDUP: TRUMP'S ASIA TRIP
The President is back in Washington following his 12-day journey to five Asian countries.
On Wednesday, Trump spoke about the impact of the trip and his achievements overseas in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, calling the journey a "tremendous success" signaling that "America is back." Though he had not returned from China with any alterations to US-China trade deals in place, the President assured Americans that he had made the case for "free and reciprocal" trade during "a very candid conversation" with Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Trump also brought up efforts from previous overseas trips, including attempts to rally Muslim leaders to join the fight against ISIS. The New York Times did a full fact check on Trump's remarks.
During the speech, Trump could not find the glass of water usually left for him behind the podium by a staffer, and was forced to sip out of a bottle of Fiji water. The somewhat awkward on-air moment went viral, reminding many viewers of a similar visual from Marco Rubio's 2013 State of the Union response.
China, on Thursday, announced that it will stick to its current strategic approach toward North Korea. The so-called "freeze-for-freeze" plan calls for North Korea to halt all missile and nuclear tests, while the US and South Korea suspend annual joint military exercises. Just the day before, President Trump told US reporters that he and Xi had agreed "that we would not accept a so-called freeze for freeze agreement like those that have consistently failed in the past." A spokesman for China's Foreign Ministry confirmed that the government feels the freeze-for-freeze proposal "is the most realistic, viable and reasonable solution."
For the first time this year, a high-level Chinese diplomat will make an official visit to Pyongyang, North Korea, though experts have warned that it's unlikely a short-term breakthrough will be reached. Instead, the trip seems intended to foster closer communication between Xi and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Trump tweeted that the Chinese envoy's trip was "a big move." Meanwhile, an editorial in the state-run North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun called for President Trump to be "sentenced to death by the Korean people" for denouncing the country's government as a "cruel dictatorship."
The three UCLA basketball players who were arrested in China have been returned to the US, and thanked President Trump for helping to arrange their releases. Freshmen LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley and Jalen Hill were arrested in Hangzhou, China, for shoplifting, a charge to which Riley admitted during statements at UCLA's basketball stadium. "I take full responsibility for the mistake I have made of shoplifting," Riley said, adding "to President Trump and the entire United States government, thank you for taking the time to intervene on our behalf. (All three players thanked Trump, as well as the Chinese police.)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly told the New York Times that the President had directly taken up the issue with Xi, asking "Do you know anything about these knuckleheads who got caught allegedly stealing?" and asking his counterpart to take care of their release "in an expeditious way." Prior to the players' public statement, the President tweeted his followers, asking "Do you think the three UCLA basketball players will say thank you to President Trump?" Trump tweeted a message to the players on Thursday, telling them "you're welcome" and asking them to also "give a big thank you to President Xi Jinping of China." He also cautioned the three college freshmen to "be careful, there are many pitfalls on the long and winding road of life!" Ball, Riley and Hill have been suspended indefinitely from the UCLA Bruins basketball team.