Bangkok, Nov 14 (efe-epa).- United States President Donald Trump skipped the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders for the third year in a row, even though this time it was held virtually due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In his place, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien represented the US in the bilateral teleconference with ASEAN on Saturday.
O’Brien will again represent the country on Sunday at the summit of the leaders of the Asia-Pacific nations that includes the likes of China, Japan, Russia, and Australia.
The national security adviser said Trump regretted not being able to attend the summit and thanked Vietnam, which this year holds the rotating presidency of ASEAN, for organizing the meetings despite the difficulties posed by the pandemic.
“At this time of global crisis, the US-ASEAN strategic partnership has become even more important as we work together to combat the coronavirus,” said the US representative.
This year, the summit takes place virtually and all the leaders made their interventions through their electronic screens sitting in their respective countries.
On Sunday, leaders of the 10-member ASEAN, along with China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand are expected to sign the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a trade agreement that would create the largest economic alliance in the world.
Disputes between China and the US, sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, and economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic are other relevant issues at this summit, which began on Thursday and will conclude on Sunday.
ASEAN is made up of Myanmar, Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The summit has also been virtually attended by leaders and senior officials from the European Union, the United Nations, China, Russia, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. EFE-EPA