President Trump hosted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe at the White House last Friday, discussing trade and security matters. Over the weekend, the two continued the dialogue while in Florida.  President Trump will welcome Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Monday and Wednesday, respectively.  He is also scheduled to call two sub-Saharan African leaders on Monday: (1) Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari; and (2) South African President Jacob Zuma.

Both chambers of the U.S. Congress are in session this week. The Senate is expected to vote on Steven Mnuchin’s nomination to serve as Secretary of the Treasury Monday evening. It remains unclear whether President Trump’s nominee to serve as Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, will be confirmed this week. Congress is scheduled to be in recess next week in observance of the Presidents Day holiday.

Japan – Prime Minister Visits U.S.

Japanese Prime Minister Abe and President Trump held a joint press conference after a bilateral meeting on Friday. President Trump said of the bilateral relationship:

“We will work together to promote our shared interests, of which we have many in the region, including freedom from navigation and of navigation, and defending against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, both of which I consider a very, very high priority.”

Prime Minister Abe highlighted economic opportunities, including infrastructure development, suggesting Japan’s maglev technology and technical expertise could possibly “contribute to President Trump’s growth strategy.” Prime Minister Abe also noted a “cross-sectoral” dialogue would be held between Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Tarō Asō and Vice President Mike Pence to further deepen the bilateral economic relationship.

North Korea – Another Missile Launch

President Trump condemned North Korea’s latest missile launch on Saturday from Florida. The President noted in particular “the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent.”

The House Foreign Affairs Committee held a hearing last week, exploring possible next steps in U.S. policy to ensure the North Korean regime does not complete development of intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the United States.

China – “One China” Policy Affirmed

The White House released readout of a Thursday call between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping.  According to the summary, “President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honor our ‘one China’ policy.”

Russia – Senate Oversight Measure Introduced

Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) convened a hearing last Thursday focused on challenges facing U.S. policy toward Russia. The Chairman noted:

“As we have heard multiple times in this room, Russia violated the Budapest Memorandum when it invaded Ukraine – where it continues to occupy stolen land and enable combat operations that kill innocent civilians.”

Chairman Corker also emphasized “the importance of restoring a credible U.S. deterrent so Moscow no longer exploits what it perceives as American weakness.”

On 8 February, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced legislation, The Russia Sanctions Review Act of 2017, that would provide for congressional oversight of any Executive Branch decision to provide sanctions relief to the Government of the Russian Federation.  SFRC Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) said:

“If the U.S. were to provide sanctions relief to Russia without verifiable progress on the Minsk Agreements, we would lose all credibility in the eyes of our allies in Europe and around the world.”

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Arizona) added:

“Congress must have oversight of any decision that would impact our ability to hold Russia accountable for its flagrant violation of international law and attack our institutions.”

Syria – U.S. Policy Examined

Last Wednesday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) issued a statement after Amnesty International alleged that as many as 13,000 people – mostly civilians – were executed through extrajudicial executions by the Syrian regime between 2011 and 2015.  Chairman Royce noted:

“The blood of thousands of Syrians is on [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad’s hands, and the world should treat him like the pariah he is. He and his backers must be held accountable for these crimes against humanity and genocidal acts.”

The SFRC held a hearing on the situation in Syria last week. Chairman Corker opened the hearing by noting President Trump asked the Defense Department for a new plan to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) last month.  The Chairman added the preliminary draft should be completed by the end of this month.

  • On Tuesday, 14 February, the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Defeating Terrorism in Syria: A New Way Forward.”

Yemen – Senate Briefing on Raid Requested

A bipartisan group of four Senators requested a briefing on the U.S. military’s objectives in Yemen, after new details emerged about a Navy SEAL raid that left one U.S. service member and a number of civilians dead.  Senators Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Al Franken (D-Minnesota) wrote a letter to the Trump Administration asking for a classified briefing on U.S. “actions and objectives” in Yemen.  The four Senators have previously been critical of U.S. policies toward Yemen.  The week before, Representative Ruben Gallego (D-Arizona) urged the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee to request a briefing from the Trump Administration on the raid.

Latin America – Trump Administration Outreach

Vice President Mike Pence spoke with two Latin American leaders on Friday. In speaking with President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, the Vice President pledged to “redouble efforts to enhance job creation and economic growth in both countries,” among other topics.  Vice President Pence pledged to “maintain and deepen their cooperation on security issues,” among other topics he discussed with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

President Trump reportedly called President Juan Manuel Santos on Saturday. President Trump also spoke with Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Sunday.  The two discussed the bilateral relationship, economic growth in both countries, and developments in Venezuela.

Other Congressional Hearings This Week

  • On Tuesday, 14 February, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a closed hearing titled “Long-term Defense Challenges and Strategies.”
  • On Tuesday, 14 February, the House Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies.”
  • On Tuesday, 14 February, the Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing to examine the semiannual monetary policy report to Congress. Federal Reserve Chairman Janet Yellen is scheduled to testify.
  • On Wednesday, 15 February, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Ending Modern Slavery: Building on Success.”
  • On Thursday, 16 February, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is scheduled to hold a confirmation hearing for David Friedman to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Israel.
  • On Thursday, 16 February, the House Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing titled “Iran on Notice.”

Looking Ahead

Washington is expected to focus on the following upcoming events:

  • 13 February: President Trump to host Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
  • 15 February: President Trump to host Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • 17-19 February: Munich Security Conference
  • 28 February: President Trump to address a joint session of Congress
  • Early March?: Release of the President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2018
  • 28 April: U.S. Federal Government funding expires