WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump said last Friday that he will add a day to the end of his venation 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 Nov13, 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 last 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.
Trump kicked off his trip with a stop in Hawaii to meet with leaders at US Pacific Command. — Bloomberg