A US diplomat has voiced Washington's 'extreme' concern over the move by the majority of ASEAN's leaders not to personally attend a special ASEAN-US summit on Monday.
“We are extremely concerned by the apparent decision,” the diplomat said, commenting on the snub, his remarks quoted by Kyodo News.
“A full or partial boycott by ASEAN leaders will be seen as an intentional effort to embarrass the President of the United States of America and this will be very damaging to the substance of the ASEAN-US relations,” the diplomat added.
The heads of state and government of seven of ASEAN’s ten members moved to skip the ASEAN-US Summit slated to take place on Monday.
The leaders of Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Cambodia, Myanmar and the Philippines downgraded their representation at Monday’s summit with the US by sending only their foreign ministers, with only a ‘troika’ comprising the prime ministers of Thailand, Vietnam and Laos showing up to the meeting with O’Brien.
The demonstrative decision was made on Friday, according to diplomatic sources cited by Kyodo News.
#AseanSummit : Today’s agenda includes the plenary of 35th ASEAN Summit, and meetings of the ASEAN Political Security Community Council and ASEAN Coordinating Council, among others. Check the meeting schedule on: https://t.co/sLVReZHQIw pic.twitter.com/yPsBABuha1— ASEAN (@ASEAN) 2 ноября 2019 г.
The downgraded presence appeared to be tied to President Trump’s decision not to personally attend the ASEAN Leaders Summit and East Asian Summit in Bangkok on November 2-4, and not to send the vice president or the secretary of state in his place.
An ASEAN source confirmed to Kyodo News that the bloc of nations was “upset with US President Trump who decided to skip the meeting,” adding that the view was that Trump “should at least send a representative who is in the cabinet. Such a gesture may set a bad example for other dialogue partners in the future.”
US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did travel to Bangkok along with O’Brien, where he said that the Trump administration was “extremely engaged in and fully committed to this region.”
This was the second year in a row that Trump has failed to show up at the annual gathering of Southeast Asian nations. Last year, Vice President Mike Pence attended the 33rd ASEAN Summit in Singapore. Trump attended the summit in Manila, the Philippines in 2017.
Late last week, following reports that Trump would not attend the Bangkok Summit, Panitan Wattanayagorn, chairman of the security advisory committee for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, told the Bangkok Post that there were a number of possible reasons for Trump to skip summits.
“President Trump’s participation [in summits] is complicated, and have many times in the past ended in a confrontation,” Panitan explained.