- The Washington Times - Friday, April 28, 2017

President Trump said Friday that he’s figured out ways to work with foreign leaders who confounded former President Obama, helping the new administration notch successes in a number of areas that his predecessor struggled with.

Rebuilt relationships have already paid off in Asia where China is bringing pressure on North Korea, the president said in an interview with the Washington Times, and in the release of Aya Hijazi, an Egyptian-American who’d been detained in Egypt for nearly three years.

Mr. Trump said he earned Ms. Hijazi’s release because he took time to build an understanding with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, repairing a relationship that had been strained by Mr. Obama.

“He didn’t like President Obama, not even a little bit. Didn’t like him,” Mr. Trump said.

“One of things I’ve done in the first 100 days, I’ve established great foundations for relationships. One of them is with Egypt,” the president said. “There’s a great case. I said to him, ‘Mr. President, do me a favor. Release her. She’s innocent. Let her go.’ Is that better than Obama?”

While not getting as much attention as his more controversial domestic policies, Mr. Trump has made his mark on the world stage, attempting to use his own personal deal-making prowess in lieu of the chiding tone Mr. Obama occasionally took.

“I said to President el-Sissi, you have a young woman, who’s an innocent young woman who’s going to be in your jail for 28 years. I would greatly appreciate if she could be released. I think it would send a tremendous signal to the people of the United States,” Mr. Trump said, recalling his plea to the Egyptian leader.

Ms. Hijazi and her husband returned to the U.S. last week after an Egyptian court acquitted her of human trafficking and child exploitation charges. Human rights groups had said the charges were bogus in the first place, and the legal proceedings had violated international and even Egyptian standards.

The Egyptian regime had confounded Mr. Obama, who’d picked Cairo early in his presidency for his major Muslim outreach speech, and who had pronounced a new era of human rights in U.S. foreign policy, but who struggled to find a clear voice during the Arab Spring.

Mr. el-Sissi, who rose to power in 2013 after a military coup toppled the hardline Islamist government, was suspicious of Mr. Obama, telling Fox News earlier this month that the former president created a “vacuum” in the Middle East that Russia was exploiting.

But Mr. el-Sissi and Mr. Trump quickly found common ground.

Mr. Trump said the same sort of outreach has helped entice China to play a more active role in trying to rein in North Korea’s belligerence. The president hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Florida earlier this month, and said they established good chemistry that will pay off for both countries.

Already, Mr. Trump said, China is refusing imports of North Korean coal, denying the regime of Kim Jong-un critical financial resources.

“How about China? The coal ships aren’t going in. Tremendous pressure’s being put on,” Mr. Trump said.

He cautioned some people may be overestimating the amount of pressure that China can bring to bear on North Korea, but said he has confidence in Mr. Xi’s intentions.

“This isn’t easy for China. But he’s a great guy, he’s a highly respected person, somebody I really, really like, and I believe he’s trying,” the president said. “There’s nobody who’s ever had a better relationship with the China leader. He’s going to go down as a great leader, in my opinion.”

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