“He slaps the right people, he hugs the right people and he comes out very strong in the end,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said Friday as she previewed Trump’s Tuesday speech.
Addressing the General Assembly is a milestone moment for any president, but one particularly significant for Trump, a relative newcomer to foreign policy who has at times rattled the international community with his unpredictability.
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“No one is going to grip and grin,” Haley said at a White House briefing. “The United States is going to work.”
National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said Trump “will urge all states to come together to address great dangers” facing the globe. Among topics certain to be on the agenda: North Korea, which has defied both sanctions and Trump’s threats by continuing with its aggressive missile testing, and Iran, which the president has accused of violating an international nuclear deal.
Trump has been sharply critical of the United Nations in the past, denouncing its “utter weakness and incompetence.” As president-elect, he derided it as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” He also suggested deep cuts to U.S. funding for the U.N.
Haley and McMaster outlined a robust schedule for Trump, who will also be joined by Vice-President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and other top advisers. The meetings on the sidelines of the United Nations are often done in rapid succession, a wearying test for even the most experienced foreign policy team.
The General Assembly “is an incredibly sophisticated dance that doesn’t really play to Tillerson’s strengths or to the president’s strengths,” said Jon Alterman of the Center for Strategic & International Studies. “You often have one 15-minute meeting after another,” with the goal of keeping focused on key points. “It’s kind of like speed dating from hell,” he said.
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The president will meet with French President Emmanuel Macron and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close ally, on Monday before holding a dinner with Latin American leaders. On Tuesday, in addition to his General Assembly speech, Trump will meet with the emir of Qatar, whose kingdom is embroiled in a dispute with other Middle East nations, including Saudi Arabia, over alleged funding of terror groups.
Trump on Wednesday holds a working lunch with African leaders and will meet with the heads of Jordan, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority. The White House has played down prospects for a major moment in the Middle East peace process. Trump also will sit down with British Prime Minster Theresa May, just days after she scolded him for choosing to publicly “speculate” about the nature of an explosion Friday that injured at least 22 people in the London subway.
Trump, who will stay in his Manhattan penthouse at Trump Tower, will conclude his stay Thursday with meetings with leaders from Turkey, Afghanistan and Ukraine before holding a lunch with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, largely to discuss the threats emanating from North Korea.
The presidents of China and Russia are not expected to attend the meetings.
Other topics on the agenda include the unstable situations in Venezuela and Syria and the fight against the Islamic State and al-Qaida terror groups. McMaster said that improving business ties between the United States and other nations will also be on the agenda.
“This administration’s ironclad commitment to free, fair and reciprocal trade and access to markets will be the bedrock of our economic talks,” he said.