President Trump will spend 12 days in Asia in November, traveling to Japan, South Korea, China, and an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Vietnam, and ending his visit Nov. 13 in Manila to meet with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, a National Security Council spokesman tells Josh Rogin at The Washington Post. But Trump is not traveling the 52 miles from Manila to Angeles to attend an East Asia Summit on Nov. 14 with the leaders of 10 Southeast Asian nations plus Russia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, India, and South Korea.
"The president's trip to Asia is extremely lengthy and will be his longest to date — his return to the U.S. on the evening of Nov. 13 is entirely schedule-driven," the NSC spokesman said. "You should not read anything into his being absent on the 14th." But Asian leaders will read a lot into it, Rogin says, viewing it as a lack of interest in the region, multilateral organizations, and using U.S. power to check China's expansive foreign policy. Former President Barack Obama had the U.S. join the East Asia Summit starting in 2009, and he attended every year from 2011 on except during the government shutdown of 2013.
"Multiple administration officials told me there was a lengthy debate inside the Trump administration about the summit," Rogin reports, "but officials close to Trump were concerned the president did not want to stay in the region for so long and worried he could get cranky, leading to unpredictable or undiplomatic behavior." Secretary of State Rex Tillerson may attend in Trump's stead. "Tillerson can sit in the president's seat, but the symbolism of that will be the headline of the day," says Southeast Asia expert Ernest Bower at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.