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 the call between Merkel and Trump on Thursday was stormy, ranging from German plans for the Nord Stream gas pipeline, to Hong Kong and the potential health risks of a face-to-face summit.
Trump’s new plan, outlined to reporters aboard Air Force One on Saturday, is to host an expanded G7 meeting — including Russia, Australia, South Korea and India — dedicated to building an alliance against China.
The plan is likely to be controversial because Russia has been banned from Western-led summits since Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and is not seen as a natural ally in the defense of human rights in Hong Kong.
Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron would also be reluctant to provide Trump with a prestigious platform to set out his China strategy weeks before the US presidential election.
Justifying the cancelation of this month’s meeting and his proposed new format, Trump said the current makeup of the group was “very outdated” and does not properly represent “what’s going on in the world.”
He said he had not set a precise date for the new meeting, but suggested it might be around the time of the annual UN General Assembly in New York City, which is normally held in September, but there is no guarantee it will go ahead this year.
The proposed “G11” meeting might also be held after the presidential election, he said.
The G7 brings together the US, Japan, France, Germany, the UK, Canada and Italy, and the US holds the presidency this year.
The Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been reluctant to see Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe attend, as he would have been required either to quarantine himself for two weeks or take a COVID-19 test on his return.
Officials told Japanese media they did not want Abe to be seen to be getting privileged treatment, and cited the backlash British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced for clearing his senior adviser of breaking the UK’s quarantine rules.
Macron was also reported to be ambivalent about a face-to-face meeting this month, and Merkel’s spokesman broke the news that she could not guarantee her personal attendance.
The White House had previously said the huge diplomatic gathering would be a “show of strength” when world economies are reemerging from shutdowns.
Additional reporting by AFP
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