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Tuesday 24 April 2018

Donald Trump arrives in Poland to warm welcome before keynote speech

President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania wave from the Air Force One after arriving in Warsaw (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
President Donald Trump and the first lady Melania wave from the Air Force One after arriving in Warsaw (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)

President Donald Trump opens his two-nation European visit expecting a warm welcome in Poland before he encounters what could be a frostier reception at an international summit in Germany.

His sit-down meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korea's first launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile threaten to put the tycoon's skills as a negotiator to the test.

Mr Trump arrived in Warsaw late on Wednesday for a 16-hour visit that includes a keynote address to the Poles from Krasinski Square, site of a monument commemorating the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against the Nazis.

Scores of people who lined darkened roads waved American and Polish flags and recorded video of Mr Trump's motorcade as it sped him and his wife, Melania, to their hotel.

Mr Trump has scheduled talks with the leaders of Poland and Croatia and may hold a joint news conference - his first one abroad - with Polish President Andrzej Duda.

He will also meet the heads of a dozen countries bordered by the Baltic, Adriatic and Black seas. Collectively known as the Three Seas Initiative, the group aims to expand and modernise energy and trade with a goal of reducing the region's dependence on Russian energy.

Mr Duda told Polish broadcaster TVN24 on Wednesday that he wants to tackle concrete issues like energy security in the meeting with Mr Trump, not engage in "some general talk about world security".

Mr Trump recently devoted a week to US energy production.

Mr Trump will have to contend with escalating tensions with North Korea after it successfully launched its first intercontinental ballistic missile this week.

Asked, as he left the White House, what he would do about North Korea, the president just said: "We're going to do very well."

Mr Trump, who has been seeking China's help in containing Pyongyang's missile and nuclear weapons programmes, also tweeted his frustration with China for continuing to trade with North Korea.

He wrote: "So much for China working with us - but we had to give it a try!"

Chinese President Xi Jinping is among at least nine leaders Mr Trump is scheduled to meet later in the week in Germany during the Group of 20 summit of the world's leading rich and developing countries.

Mr Trump will hold face-to-face talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately after he arrives in Germany on Thursday.

The president will also walk a fine line when he meets Mr Putin on Friday, at a time when relations between the two nations are at a low point.

The president is showing reluctance to adopt a harder line toward Russia amid conclusions by multiple US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the 2016 presidential election to benefit Mr Trump.

There are continuing federal and congressional investigations into possible collusion between his campaign associates and Russian government officials.

Mr Trump's return to Europe follows a shaky inaugural visit in late May and signs of unhappiness around the globe with his presidency.

A recent Pew Research Centre survey of attitudes toward Mr Trump in more than three dozen countries found fewer than three in 10 respondents expressing confidence in his ability to do the right thing on international affairs.

Mr Trump's earlier visit was marred by several awkward encounters, including a tough speech to Nato members urging them to spend more on their armed forces.

There was an uncomfortable handshake with France's new president and a caught-on-camera moment when Mr Trump pushed past the prime minister of Montenegro to get to the front of a group photo opportunity.

Poland may offer him a chance to shine.

Polish media reports say the government promised the White House cheering crowds as part of its invitation.

Ruling party politicians and pro-government activists plan to bus in groups of people for Mr Trump's speech.

With Mr Trump's sights already set on getting re-elected in 2020, the visit to Poland could also be seen as a power play for battleground states like Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, home to hundreds of thousands of Polish-American voters.


Press Association

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