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US accuses ASEAN nations of trying to “embarrass” Trump with meeting snub

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: All smiles for the official pics, but backroom tensions emerged between the US and other ASEAN delegations – Reuters

An American diplomat, speaking anonymously, says the US is concerned by the ASEAN nations’ partial boycott of the ASEAN-US summit held in Bangkok yesterday. It was certainly an intentional rebuff to the US after sending a sub-par delegation to the annual ASEAN Summit.

The Bangkok Post reports that the US diplomat calls it an “intentional effort to embarrass” President Trump, adding that such a step is a cause for concern.

“We are extremely concerned by the apparent decision. 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.”

US national security adviser Robert O’Brien was sent to Bangkok on behalf of President Trump, who has also invited Southeast Asian leaders to a US summit early next year, choosing to forego the annual Thai gathering. Last year, he sent Vice-President Mike Pence, but it’s understood that both he and Pence are too busy on the campaign trail this year.

Last week ASEAN leaders remarked that the ‘low level’ US representation to last weekend’s Summit in Bangkok was a snub of the SE Asian trade bloc by the US government and the White House.

The Bangkok Post reports that protocol dictates that yesterday’s meeting with the US delegation would normally be attended by prime ministers or presidents, and seven of the ten Southeast Asian countries are believed to have been making a point by sending their foreign ministers instead.

The only countries to send their leaders were Thailand, Vietnam, and Laos.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was also in Bangkok as part of a trade mission, holding a private conference that was attended by around 1,000 business professionals and government officials. Despite what is being seen as a snub by Trump, Ross insists the US government and American businesses are committed to the ASEAN region.

The Bangkok Post report concludes that the ASEAN region is seen as a rapidly-growing market, comprising nearly 650 million people. ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

The bloc, started in 1967, includes some of the fastest growing and stable economies in the world, and will be part of the new RCEP, the world’s largest trading bloc which is set to kick off early in 2020, which will also include Australia, South Korea, China, Japan and India.

SOURCE: Bangkok Post

 

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