politics

Trump to Stay for ‘Most Important Day’ of East Asia Summit

Updated on
  • President had intended to leave the day before the summit
  • Trump stopped in Hawaii and visited the USS Arizona memorial

Anticipation Builds for President Trump's Trip to Asia

President Donald Trump said Friday that he will add a day to the end of his five-nation 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 U.S. on Nov. 13, 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.

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses U.S. military personnel at Yokota Air Base in Japan on Nov. 5.

Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg

Shortly after Trump’s departure from the White House on 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 U.S. 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.

Leading Role

Former Obama administration officials criticized 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.

Speaking to reporters Friday, Trump said that he had originally planned to spend a day in Hawaii at the end of the trip, but canceled to stay longer in the Philippines.

“I’m going to spend the extra day at the second conference, which is a very important conference,” he said.

Trump kicked off his trip with a stop in Hawaii to meet with leaders at U.S. Pacific Command, who briefed him on the security situation in the region.

After the briefing, the president took a boat tour of Pearl Harbor and visited the USS Arizona memorial, built on top of the battleship sunk in the Japanese attack in December 1941. Trump laid a wreath before the marble war memorializing the 1,177 officers and crewman who died aboard the ship and stood for a moment of silence.

Trump’s stop at Pearl Harbor is the first since Obama’s visit to the site in December 2016, when he was accompanied by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

— With assistance by Justin Sink

(Updates with details of Trump’s visit to war memorial in last two paragraphs.)
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