US President Donald Trump will not be attending the US-Asean, East Asia Summit (EAS), and Apec (Asia-Pacific Regional Cooperation) meetings in Singapore and Papua New Guinea in November, sending Vice-President Mike Pence instead, the White House said on Friday.
It will be the first time that a US President has skipped the US-Asean and East Asia Summits since 2013 when then-president Barack Obama, dealing with a government shutdown at home, sent his vice-president Joe Biden.
Privately, since Mr Trump’s June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, diplomats have doubted whether the President, who is known not to be fond of long haul travel, would travel a second time to Singapore for the Asean and EAS summits, followed by the Apec summit in Papua New Guinea.
Mr Trump is attending a military parade in Paris on Nov 11 commemorating the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. He will then visit Ireland, and later in the month Argentina for the Group of 20, and Colombia for discussions on security, counter narcotics, and regional affairs, the White House said.
He is also due to address the UN General Assembly in New York in the second half of November.
Additionally, the aftermath of the US’ Nov 6 mid-term election could be politically fraught for Mr Trump if the Republican Party loses its majority in the House of Representatives.
Vice-President Pence, who has in many respects been the perfect unflappable understudy to the mercurial President, will “highlight the United States’ vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, based on respect for sovereignty, the rule of law, and the principles of free, fair, and reciprocal trade,” the White House said.
“The Vice-President looks forward to meeting with our allies and partners from across the region to advance security, prosperity, and freedom for all,” the statement added.
Still, the President will miss meeting among others, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Yet, it will also be an opportunity for leaders to meet and get to know Mr Pence, diplomats said.