National security adviser, not Trump, to lead US team at summit
WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump's new national security adviser will represent the US at the East Asia Summit, the White House said on Tuesday, the lowest-level official to lead the Washington delegation since it was first invited to the regional forum.
With Mr Trump embroiled in an impeachment inquiry, the muted presence at the Nov 3-4 summit in Bangkok is sure to renew charges that the US is not focused on Asia while China's clout is growing.
The White House said Mr Robert O'Brien, who took over the position in September from the John Bolton, will lead a US delegation that will include Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Mr Trump is still expected to go the following week to a separate summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation bloc in Chile.
The East Asia Summit concept was promoted for years by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But the US was controversially excluded from the inaugural summit in Kuala Lumpur in 2005, drawing widespread commentary in Asia that Washington was too preoccupied with the Middle East.
After then President Barack Obama vowed to pivot US attention toward Asia, the US - as well as Russia - were invited as full participants in the summits starting in 2011.
Mr Trump flew to the Philippines for his first East Asia Summit in 2017 but, with the session running late, he left early and ended a 12-day trip to Asia, with then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson taking his place.
Last year, Vice-President Mike Pence attended the summit in Singapore.
Mr Trump has said he plans to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Nov 16-17 Apec summit in Chile.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also confirmed his attendance. - AFP