"The absence of strong U.S. language endorsing democratic values and processes will be glaringly evident on Trump's Asia trip," said Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in a recent report.
Under of Trump's "America First" strategy, the White House does not believe it should interfere with countries' social issues in order to preserve economic and commercial ties. The approach stands in contrast to recent U.S. administrations — former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton saw the promotion of democracy as instrumental to U.S. security interests.
"So far, Trump and his team have explicitly disowned values and human rights as a part of U.S. statecraft," researchers at the Centre of American Progress said in a recent note.
In previous talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier this year, Trump made no mention of human rights abuses and instead, praised Duterte's anti-narcotics campaign. In comparison, Obama voiced concerns about basic freedoms with all three leaders.
"Trump must make clear on his trip that the United States will prioritize democracy, rule of law, and human rights in Asia," the Centre of American Progress continued. He can do that by making clear public statements, raising issues in state visits and meeting members of civil society to hear their voices, it added.