China

When President Trump returned this week from a 12-day, five-nation swing through Asia, he gave himself high marks for the "tremendous success of this trip."

But experts say that while he avoided major blunders during his stops in South Korea, Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines, the president missed more than one opportunity to offer his administration's strategic vision for the region — the world's largest, most populous and fastest growing.

The three UCLA basketball players President Trump helped spring from China this week looked shamefaced when they told reporters in Los Angeles that they were guilty of shoplifting sunglasses in China. They added they were grateful to Trump for raising their case with President Xi Jinping.

In China's coal country, Shanxi Province, the black stuff is a more than just a source of income — it is a source of identity. Lumps of it are for sale at the national coal museum, in elegant, satin-lined gift boxes. The rest of the coal museum is faded and out of date, much like the city of Taiyuan, where it is located, about 300 miles southwest of Beijing.

Engaging the Chinese on North Korea and trade were President Trump's two priorities this week in Beijing — and engage he did, but Chinese leader Xi Jinping gave little indication he was ready to budge any further on either issue.

President Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping say they have agreed to work together on the denuclearization of North Korea and closer cooperation on trade.

In a joint statement delivered at Beijing's Great Hall of the People with Xi, Trump praised the Chinese president as "a very special man," and earlier, he said the two enjoyed "great chemistry." The Chinese leader emphasized that while the two economic and military giants would occasionally have differences, there were opportunities to be "mutually reinforcing."

As the sun went down Wednesday on the vermilion walls and yellow tile roofs of Beijing's Forbidden City, the first families of the U.S. and China took in a Peking opera performance in the palace where China's emperors lived for nearly six centuries.

It was the start of what China's ambassador to the U.S. calls a "state visit plus" — a highly choreographed blend of stagecraft and statecraft, designed to highlight the evolving chemistry between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping.

After stops in Japan and South Korea, President Trump arrived in China on Wednesday, the third of his five stops in Asia this week. He had tea and dinner, and took in some opera, with China's leader Xi Jinping. On Thursday, they will hold bilateral talks. On the table will be the trade imbalance between the countries that Trump hopes to rectify and ongoing provocations from China's intransigent neighbor, North Korea.

Even as the world — especially Asian nations — looks on, no one is watching this leg of Trump's swing through Asia with more trepidation than Taiwan.

Soft lounge music pipes through the speakers as elegantly dressed shoppers peruse organic produce and meats at City'super, one of Shanghai's most upscale markets, a cross between Whole Foods and Louis Vuitton. But one look at the price of an American steak is enough to conjure a mental scratch of a needle across this soothing soundtrack: Nearly $60 for a pound of USDA Prime ribeye.

President Trump on Monday pledged to stand by Japan against the "menace" of North Korea and said he hoped the two nations could come to a "free, fair and reciprocal" trade relationship.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. ET

With news from the special counsel's probe into Russian interference in the presidential election still swirling in Washington, President Trump is leaving Friday on his longest foreign trip to date.

The Asian odyssey will take him to five countries and two international summits. Trade issues and North Korea's nuclear threat are likely to dominate the discussions. Here's a quick primer on what to watch for at each stop:

Japan

Updated at 10:35 p.m. ET

President Trump on Monday authorized his top trade official to look into whether China is guilty of intellectual property theft, a move that could eventually lead to trade sanctions.

Trump called his action "a very big move" against practices that cost our nation "millions of jobs and billions and billions of dollars each and every year."

President Trump is planning to ask his staff to consider investigating Chinese trade practices, senior White House officials said Saturday. The Trump administration is insisting the move isn't tied to heightening tensions with North Korea, but it is inherently connected to complications in the region.

"I don't think we're heading toward a period of greater conflict (with China)," said one White House official. "This is simply business."

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

On the Fourth of July, North Korea marked a milestone by firing an intercontinental ballistic missile that soared high into space before turning around and landing in the sea near Japan. The North's state media said the missile, Hwasong-14, flew 580 miles, reaching an altitude of 1,741 miles, and flew for nearly 40 minutes.

President Trump's Twitter account may be popular among his fans at home, but his latest missives are complicating the work of American diplomats overseas. As some diplomats push back, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert cautions that they "are expected to use their judgment."

Consider Trump's personal attack on London's mayor, Sadiq Khan, after Saturday night's deadly terrorist attack in the British capital.

A Chinese labor activist has been arrested and two others have disappeared after investigating alleged labor abuses at a factory that makes shoes for several major brands — including Ivanka Trump's.

Hua Haifeng disappeared sometime Sunday while en route to the Huajian International shoe factory in southern China.

On Tuesday, police in the province called Hua's wife, Deng Guimian.

An American THAAD missile defense system is now operational in South Korea, less than two months after its components arrived there, the U.S. military says.

The system is meant to protect South Korea from ballistic missiles fired by North Korea, the Pentagon says. But China and other critics of the move say it will only increase tensions on the Korean Peninsula. The decision to install the missile shield was made by the U.S. and South Korea last July.

During a "very friendly" phone conversation, President Donald Trump invited Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte to the White House, signaling a massive shift in attitude from the U.S. toward a leader known best for inciting an extrajudicial war on drugs in his country that's killed more than 7,500 people.

President Trump says that while he would like to resolve the issue of North Korea's nuclear program diplomatically, it will be hard — and there is a potential for a major clash with the Asian nation, Trump said in an interview with Reuters.

"There's a chance that we could end up having a major, major conflict with North Korea, absolutely," the president told the news agency. "We'd love to solve things diplomatically but it's very difficult."

In his first interview with NPR, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a wide-ranging interview with Morning Edition's Steve Inskeep.

Steve Inskeep: I want to begin with North Korea. We heard when you said, "the era of strategic patience is over," so we know what your policy is not. Is there a word or phrase you can give us to say what your approach to North Korea is?

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Yes, our approach to North Korea is to have them change their posture towards any future talks.

China's Foreign Ministry is defending a decision to grant Ivanka Trump new trademark rights for her line of handbags, jewelry and spa services. The three new trademarks were approved April 6 while the president's daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife at dinner at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to The Associated Press.

For someone who speaks with as much conviction as President Trump, he sure has a way of changing positions with an equal level of certitude.

Donald Trump's rhetoric on China and trade has been blunt, to say the least.

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country — and that's what they're doing," he said at a May 2016 campaign rally. "It's the greatest theft in the history of the world."

Updated at 3:15 p.m. ET on April 7

What President Trump may refer to as "the art of the deal," his guest at Mar-a-Lago on Thursday and Friday — Chinese President Xi Jinping — might call "win-win cooperation."

In this first summit meeting between the two leaders, both sides have things they are willing to give and get. Both will be sizing the other up to see to what extent they can do business with each other.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit President Trump in Palm Beach, Fla., next week, for talks that will likely range from economic to security issues. The first meeting between the two leaders will stretch from April 6-7.

Last year, the U.S. trade deficit with China topped $347 billion, with total trade worth more than half a trillion dollars, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

A Chinese spokesperson notes that before the visit to Trump's Mar-a-Lago property, Xi will spend three days in Finland.

Updated at 5:10 p.m. ET

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the U.S. doesn't want to take military action against North Korea, but "all of the options are on the table" if a serious threat arises. Tillerson made his frank remarks in a visit to South Korea on Friday, a day after saying diplomatic efforts "have failed" to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear program.

Tillerson's Asia tour began in Japan and will end in China. The top American diplomat is traveling without a press contingent.

The head of the president's National Trade Council this week offered a decidedly bleak and suspicious view of global trade. Peter Navarro says foreign companies buying up U.S. corporations are posing a threat to national security.

That might sound bad, but it's a fringe view that puts him at odds with the vast majority of economists.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Pages