US President Donald Trump is to skip two major summits in Asia in November, a move that could stoke concerns in the region about the US’ reliability as a counterweight to China.
The White House on Friday said that US Vice President Mike Pence would travel to Singapore for an 18-member ASEAN summit, before heading to Papua New Guinea for an APEC gathering.
The APEC summit is normally attended by 21 leaders, including Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The decision removes one potential avenue for Trump to meet with Xi as a trade war between the US and China deepens. Both leaders are expected to attend the G20 summit in Argentina later in November.
Trump’s absence is also likely to fuel concerns among Asian leaders who want the US to push back against China’s increasing economic and military might.
Trump administration officials have been promoting a new “Indo-Pacific” strategy to bolster its commitment to the region, after Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal and questioned the cost of security alliances with Japan and South Korea.
“His absence would doubtlessly solidify the impression that America has essentially abandoned its traditional presence in the Asia-Pacific, not to mention the non-starter Indo-Pacific,” said Oh Ei Sun (胡逸山), a senior adviser for international affairs at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute in Kuala Lumpur.
Without Trump, Xi would have more space to advocate Chinese trade and development projects, such as his ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.
Xi was the first leader to confirm his attendance to the APEC meeting in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, where he also plans to host his own summit with Pacific leaders.
Although US leaders have attended the events over the past few years, missing them is not unprecedented.
In 2007, then-US president George W. Bush drew flak for rescheduling a planned meeting with ASEAN leaders in Singapore. Former US president Barack Obama, whose administration announced a pivot in military and diplomatic resources to Asia, in 2013 skipped APEC to handle a government shutdown.
Newly installed Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison during a trip to Jakarta yesterday told reporters that Trump’s decision to tend to matters at home was understandable and Pence “speaks with the authority of the [US] president.”
The Singaporean Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed Pence’s visit to the city-state, adding in a statement that it would be his first as US vice president.
The Asian summits come days after midterm US Congressional elections, which could determine Trump’s ability to withstand investigations into Russian campaign interference and election-season payments to alleged mistresses.
While US Democratic Party leaders have largely avoided talking about impeaching Trump, Republican losses in the US House of Representatives or Senate would greatly increase the risk of congressional action.
Collin Koh Swee Lean (高瑞連), a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said that efforts by US officials in the region should help offset Trump’s absence.
US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo at an ASEAN meeting last month announced US$300 million in regional security funding and the US military is among nine nations participating in the ongoing annual Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training exercises in Singapore.
China would attack Taiwan if there is no other way of stopping it from becoming independent, Chinese General Li Zuocheng (李作成) said yesterday. Speaking at Beijing’s Great Hall of the People on the 15th anniversary of China’s “Anti-Secession” Law, Li, who is chief of the Joint Staff Department of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Central Military Commission, left the door open to using force. The 2005 law is China’s legislative basis for military action against Taiwan. “If the possibility for peaceful reunification is lost, the people’s armed forces will, with the whole nation, including the people of Taiwan, take all necessary steps to
SECURITY CONCERNS: The Telecom Technology Center ran black-box tests for the Executive Yuan on devices and software from Chinese, US and South Korean firms Network devices from several Chinese manufacturers are insecure and allow personal information to be leaked, testing commissioned by the Executive Yuan has shown. A variety of devices and software, including apps, from Chinese, US and South Korean manufacturers that are used by government agencies at the central and local level were subjected to black-box testing — in which the functionality of an application is examined without knowing about its internal structure, an information-security official said yesterday on condition of anonymity. The Telecom Technology Center conducted the tests, which simulated cyberattacks, to determine their resilience to the attacks, the official said. The center
Americans awoke yesterday to charred and glass-strewn streets in dozens of cities after another night of unrest fueled by rage over the mistreatment of African Americans at the hands of police, who responded to the violence with tear gas and rubber bullets. Tens of thousands marched peacefully through streets to protest the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on Monday last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on his neck until he stopped breathing. However, many demonstrations sank into chaos as night fell: Vehicles and businesses were torched. The words “I can’t breathe” were
EXTRA INVITATIONS: Russia, Australia, South Korea and India would be asked to a later summit dedicated to countering China, Donald Trump said US President Donald Trump has been forced to cancel a planned face-to-face summit of G7 leaders this month and now wants to host an expanded meeting in September dedicated to countering China to which Russian President Vladimir Putin would be invited. Trump on Saturday announced that he had canceled the June meeting, which he had billed as a symbol of the US “transitioning back to greatness,” after German Chancellor Angela Merkel told him in a telephone call that she saw the summit in Washington as a health risk. Hundreds of security staff, journalists and officials also attend the two-day summits. Reports suggest