A look at who’s with Trump, who’s staying behind

By Ock Hyun-ju
  • Published : Nov 5, 2017 - 18:06
  • Updated : Nov 6, 2017 - 10:32
US President Donald Trump began his marathon 12-day tour of Asia on Sunday, which will lead him to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. He will touch down in Korea on Tuesday for a two-day stay here.

White House chief of staff John Kelly, as well as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster -- Trump’s key advisers on diplomacy -- will accompany Trump here, while Defense Secretary James Mattis and Vice President Mike Pence will stay behind in Washington.

First daughter and White House aide Ivanka Trump has scrapped her plans to travel with her father to South Korea and China. But she visited Japan and returned to the US before her father arrived there for a three-day stay as the first stop of his Asia tour.

Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, a senior adviser who helped organize Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, in April, will be visiting.

“We were initially notified that Ivanka would come (to Korea) too, but we were told at the last minute that she will return to the US following her trip to Japan,” said an official from Cheong Wa Dae. “As for Kushner, we understood that he will accompany Trump during his stay in Korea.”

Here is a look at some of those who will accompany Trump on his visit to South Korea:

First lady Melania Trump


The first lady has taken a more visible role in the White House lately, and has been a frequent presence at the president’s side during the pomp and ceremony on previous foreign trips. During his first overseas trip, which took Trump to the Middle East and Europe, she drew attention for appearing to swat away the president’s hand and for laughing when Pope Francis joked about a sweet treat from her homeland of Slovenia. She is expected to part ways after they stop in China.

National security adviser H.R. McMaster

McMaster, the target of a far-right attack campaign over the summer, has been instrumental in organizing the trip. A three-star general, McMaster has declared that “there is a military option” that could be used against the nuclear threat posed by North Korea.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Tillerson has come under withering criticism from Trump in recent weeks and has had to fend off rumors his time as secretary of state is about to fall short. Trump has upbraided Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon Mobil, for advocating a diplomatic solution to the North Korea crisis. Trump took to Twitter to say, “Save your energy, Rex.” And Tillerson has had to deny he reportedly called Trump “a moron” after a July briefing at the Pentagon about American interests overseas.

White House chief of staff John Kelly

The retired four-star Marine general, who has tried to better organize the White House and streamline the flow of information to the president, took a rare recent turn in the public eye when he defended Trump’s outreach to the grieving families of slain soldiers. Kelly went on the attack against a Democratic congresswoman who criticized the tone of one of Trump’s condolence calls.

White House senior aide Jared Kushner

Kushner is expected to take on a less prominent role on this foreign trip than on a previous one in May. Kushner, who is married to Ivanka Trump, the president’s eldest daughter, and helped organize Chinese President Xi Jinping’s April visit to Mar-a-Lago in Florida, has been dogged by questions about his contacts with Russia. He remains a leading voice in the administration’s China policy. He will leave the trip after Beijing.

Who’s not coming:

Vice President Mike Pence

For security purposes, it is exceedingly rare for a president and vice president to both travel overseas at the same time. Pence, who came to South Korea in April as part of his own official trip to Asia, is set to remain in Washington.

Defense Secretary James Mattis


Mattis, who holds outsized influence in the administration, just returned from his own trip to Asia, which included a stop in South Korea. The retired Marine Corps general has publicly endorsed finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis in North Korea, but has pledged the Pentagon would be ready for any outcome.

First daughter Ivanka Trump 


Ivanka Trump, who has taken the official title of a presidential adviser, was originally scheduled to accompany her father in Japan, Korea and China, but scrapped the plans so that she could help sell her father’s tax plan back home.

Still, she managed to make a three-day visit to Japan from Thursday, prior to the president’s tour, speaking at a women’s entrepreneurship event in Tokyo on Friday.

By Ock Hyun-ju and news reports