US President Donald Trump will skip the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines next month, instead choosing to return to Washington a day before, citing scheduling reasons.
Trump is scheduled to make a 12-day trip to Asia early next month, visiting five countries, including the Philippines. He will attend the Asean Summit in Manila on Nov 13, but will not travel the 80km to the Philippine city of Angeles the following day for the EAS, an annual conference of Asian and world leaders that focuses on the strategic future of the region.
According to The Washington Post, the White House said the decision to leave early is “schedule-driven” and should not be misconstrued.
“The President’s trip to Asia is extremely lengthy and will be his longest to date – his return to the US on the evening of Nov 13 is entirely schedule-driven,” the spokesman said.
“You should not read anything into his being absent on the 14th.”
Despite this warning from Washington, commenters are already speculating what this means for US relations and leadership in the region.
“It is a big deal. The Obama administration made a point of investing in these regional institutions in order to demonstrate we are an Asia Pacific power, a resident power in the region. This will only raise more questions about American credibility,” Derek Mitchell, former US ambassador to Burma told the Post.
“Multilateralism in Asia is often just about showing up, but even that appears to be hard for him.”
The East Asia Summit includes the 10 Asean nations plus Russia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India and South Korea, along with the United States.
Trump’s Asian itinerary begins on Nov 3 as he travels to Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam and the Philippines. During his visit, he will meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte who has in the past voiced criticism towards the US. He will also meet with China’s President Xi Jinping, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and Vietnam’s President Tran Dai Quang.
North Korea will be a major issue on his tour according to a statement from the White House. Trump will “call on the international community to join together in maximising pressure on North Korea.”