Trump is scheduled to make a 12-day, five-nation trip to Asia and will attend the ASEAN summit on Nov 13 in the Philippines on the last leg of his tour, AP reported. "If the EAS (East Asia Summit) will push through on the 14th, he can not extend another day because he has a long trip", Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Cayetano told reporters yesterday.
During his visit, Trump will emphasise his commitment to USA alliances and partnerships, attend events at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
"The decision was really that he will be here on the 12th and the 13th (of November)".
"The trip will be the President's longest trip to date, underscoring the importance he places on the Indo-Pacific region and demonstrating the importance of robust worldwide engagement in defense of U.S. national security and economic prosperity for the American people", said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert.
Since the schedule only indicates an overnight visit for Trump in the Philippines, this means that the USA leader will not be joining the East Asia Summit (EAS).
Trump's absence from the East Asia Summit could be another blow to the countries in the region, especially U.S. allies who see Washington as a counterbalance to Beijing.
"Just as President Xi has consolidated power at home and proclaimed China's regional leadership ambitions, the American president has signalled that he doesn't have the energy to stay on for another 24 hours to attend one of the most important meetings of Asia-Pacific leaders", Storey said.
The Philippines said yesterday the East Asia Summit would be held in Manila, not Angeles.
EAS is composed of the 10 Asean countries-Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and nine others namely Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, US and Russian Federation.
The US leader would then attend on October 13 the US-Asean summit and hold a bilateral dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte and other world leaders.
Pundits said that Mr Trump's absence could signal a lack of interest in the forum and what it represents.
Evan Resnick, an assistant professor and coordinator of the United States programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said Trump's decision would affect the unity of Southeast Asian nations in the face of a powerful China.
Ian Storey, from the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore, said the U.S. president's timing was "terrible".
Mr Duterte has kept warm relations with Mr Trump, calling him a "kindred spirit", a far cry from his scathing response to Mr Obama, Mr Trump's predecessor, who had criticised the Philippine leader's brutal war on drugs which has left at least 3,000 people dead.