Trump to attend ASEAN, APEC Summits this year
The Jakarta Post
United States Vice President Mike Pence announced Thursday evening after “very productive meetings” with ASEAN representatives that US President Donald Trump would attend the ASEAN Summit proceedings in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Vietnam later this year.
The announcement comes after months of uncertainty over whether the new US administration would reaffirm its presence in the region, with Washington keeping coy about continuing the “Pivot to Asia” policy it had inherited from Trump’s predecessor.
“When I spoke to President Trump this morning, he gave me the great privilege to inform the secretary-general and the permanent [representatives] of ASEAN that the US president will attend the US-ASEAN Summit, the East Asia Summit and the APEC Leaders Meeting in Vietnam and the Philippines this November,” Pence said.
In front of reporters gathered that evening, Pence said he hoped the announcement could become a testament to the value that President Trump placed in Southeast Asia and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
This vote of confidence was indeed warmly welcomed by ASEAN officials, as the White House had finally given “very positive indications” about US interests in the region, outgoing Indonesian permanent representative to ASEAN Rahmat Pramono said.
“It became crystal clear when [Pence] underscored their commitment to ASEAN,” Rahmat told reporters after the meeting.
“Since perhaps the early days of the Trump administration we have had doubts, and we heard rumors that America might no longer look to us — but now the fact is that they have committed to focusing more attention to us, including by Trump’s attendance at the [ASEAN] Summit in November.”
As one of ASEAN’s longest standing dialogue partners, the US plans to celebrate its 40 years of formal relations with the bloc later this year as the Philippines hosts the US-ASEAN Summit, a milestone in the partners’ annual joint consultation meetings.
But, ASEAN experts like Ibrahim Almuttaqi of the Jakarta-based Habibie Center remained cautious about the prospect of a more engaged US government.
“It will remain to be seen whether Trump will follow up on his words. The past few weeks have seen a number of notable U-turns by the US President, often characterized by a reactionary nature rather than a thought out plan,” Ibrahim told The Jakarta Post.
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