Donald Trump will attend a series of key summits in Asia in November, his vice president said today, adding it was a sign of America’s “unwavering commitment” to the region. The US president will go to the US-ASEAN and East Asia meetings in the Philippines, as well as a gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in Vietnam, Vice President Mike Pence said.
Former president Barack Obama, who had championed a “pivot to Asia”, was a frequent visitor to the Asia-Pacific as he sought to refocus US foreign policy on the region to counter growing Chinese influence.
Trump’s decision to attend the meetings could come as a surprise to some, given his fiery “America first” rhetoric and his decision to abandon a Pacific trade pact which was the economic plank of the pivot.
The president’s attendance at the meetings was “a sign, I hope to all, of our firm and unwavering commitment to build on the strong foundations that we already share”, Pence said during a visit to Indonesia.
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The announcement came as Pence visited the Jakarta headquarters of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and met representatives of the bloc. The East Asia Summit groups 18 countries including ASEAN member states, the US, Russia and China. APEC brings together 21 member states from either side of the Pacific.
It was the latest signal on Pence’s tour of Asia that the Trump administration is seeking to calm nerves after the president’s often combative rhetoric unsettled allies.
During stops in South Korea and Japan, Pence played down protectionist declarations and reaffirmed US treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over North Korea’s nuclear and missile programmes. Pence will Friday depart Indonesia for Australia.