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Envoy: US committed to Asia in spite of Trump’s no-show at East Asia Summit

MANILA — Washington remains fully committed to Asia though United States President Donald Trump will miss a key regional summit when he visits the Philippines next month, the US ambassador in Manila said on Thursday (Oct 26).

United States President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

United States President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP

MANILA — Washington remains fully committed to Asia though United States President Donald Trump will miss a key regional summit when he visits the Philippines next month, the US ambassador in Manila said on Thursday (Oct 26).

Ambassador Sung Kim told reporters that Trump is skipping the East Asia Summit (EAS) for scheduling reasons, but will have a full range of meetings, including a summit with 10 South-east Asian leaders and talks with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

The White House said on Tuesday (Oct 25) that Mr Trump will skip the EAS in the Philippines on Nov 14. Another US delegation will attend the meeting, which will include more than a dozen Asian nations, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Russia.

The White House did not give a reason for Mr Trump's absence.

"For very important reasons, he needs to be back in Washington on the 14th, so he will not be able to participate in the East Asia Summit,'' Mr Kim said.

He added that analysts who say such an absence indicates Mr Trump is not as interested in engaging Asia as former President Barack Obama was “are misguided”.

“We have made very clear that the United States is fully committed to the Asia-Pacific region,” Mr Kim noted, saying that “it is in our interest to remain closely engaged in the Asia-Pacific region”.

Mr Kim’s remarks came on the back of comments by analysts that Mr Trump’s no-show at the EAS would add to uncertainties about US engagement in the Asia-Pacific.

Mr Richard Heydarian, an assistant professor in international affairs and political science at De La Salle University in Manila, told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that the president’s decision not to attend the event could send the wrong signal to a region lamenting a lack of engagement by Mr Trump after years of intense diplomatic interaction during the administration of his predecessor, Mr Obama.

“Given China’s rising influence in South-east Asia, Trump should have doubled down rather than minimised Obama’s earlier engagement strategy,” Mr Heydarian noted.

Mr Ian Storey, from the Iseas-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said the US president’s decision to skip the EAS was “terrible”.

“Just as President Xi has consolidated power at home and proclaimed China’s regional leadership ambitions, the American president has signalled that he doesn’t have the energy to stay on for another 24 hours to attend one of the most important meetings of Asia-Pacific leaders,” Mr Storey told SCMP. AGENCIES

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