Donald Trump's foreign policy being tested with multiple crises

Trump would like to be promoting his domestic agenda. Credit: PA

Every president gets diverted by foreign policy crises.

That's true even for Donald Trump, the man who campaigned on an America First policy of nationalism and semi-isolationism.

Today's groaning in-tray is perhaps the best example of how multiple international issues can ambush even the most reluctant commander-in-chief.

Trump would like to be promoting his domestic agenda.

But in reality he is also weighing how to respond to the atrocity in Syria and how to contain and deter North Korea.

File photo of ballistic missiles being fired during a test drill in North Korea Credit: AP

And, oh yes, he is hosting President Xi Jinping of China at his Florida resort for dinner tonight and for talks on Friday.

Each of those three issues is immensely complicated and consequential.

Trump already stands accused of inconsistency, foreign policy amateurism, and of having whole swathes of government (especially his national security infrastructure) understaffed and ill-prepared for a crisis.

On Syria, Trump has dramatically raised expectations of a policy reversal.

Yesterday, he issued warnings - primarily through his UN Ambassador - of unilateral US action.

A child is treated after a suspected chemical attack in Syria.

Does that suggest a strike against President Assad to punish him for the Idlib outrage? Since he has often promoted the value of unpredictability, anything is possible.

Others in the Administration will tell you that North Korea is the more urgent issue.

Kim Jong-Un's combination of nuclear ambitions and ballistic missile advancements is seen as potentially a direct threat to the United States.

But perhaps the most complicated and globally significant bilateral relationship is between China and America.

As a candidate, Trump relentlessly attacked China's trade and currency policy, portraying its unfair practices as directly responsible for the industrial collapse of the US.

Trump is hosting President Xi Jinping of China on Friday Credit: PA

Today the economic superpowers - led by two nationalist presidents - will meet amid the manicured lawns and fairways of Trump's golf resort of Mar-a-Lago.

They are sizing each other up, seeking advantage. Trump and Xi both have a stake in making their summit a success.

But China is focused, outwardly assertive, and ready for business.

Team Trump is distracted, alarmed by the state of the world, and wondering what happened to the idea of focusing like a laser on domestic issues.