US President Donald Trump extends trip to attend ‘most important day’ of East Asia summit
Foreign policy experts warned Trump’s decision to forgo the gathering could deepen anxieties among Asian partners over US commitment to the region
US President Donald Trump said on Friday he will add a day to the end of his five-nation tour of Asia, saying he would now stay for “the most important day” of a regional summit.
The president had been scheduled to return to the US on November 13, a day before the start of the East Asia Summit, the traditional venue for discussing major regional policy issues such as North Korean aggression and China’s activities in the South China Sea.
Shortly after Trump’s departure from the White House on Friday, Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that plans had changed – Trump was extending his trip by one day to attend the summit.
Foreign policy experts had warned that Trump’s decision to forgo the gathering – which former president Barack Obama regularly attended – could deepen anxieties among Asian partners over the US commitment to the region, especially in light of the escalating North Korean threat and Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“We’re staying the extra day because the following day is actually the most important day,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Hawaii.
Former Obama administration officials criticised Trump’s earlier decision not to attend, saying it would open the door for China to seize a leading role in the region.
“What we said prior to President Obama’s final trip to Asia is even truer today: If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,” said Ned Price, the chief National Security Council spokesman during the Obama administration.
Speaking to reporters Friday, Trump said that he had originally planned to spend a day in Hawaii at the end of the trip, but cancelled to stay longer in the Philippines.
“I’m going to spend the extra day at the second conference, which is a very important conference,” he said.
Trump kicked off his trip with a stop in Hawaii to meet with leaders at US Pacific Command, who briefed him on the security situation in the region.