By Genalyn Kabiling
NONTHABURI, Thailand –The Southeast Asian regional bloc is committed to further enhance partnership and cooperation with the United States despite the absence of US President Donald Trump in the summit this weekend.
Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United States remained “good partners” for many years and will continue to advance such alliance.
“No, I don’t think so. ASEAN and the United States have had a good relationship for the last decades,” Andanar told reporters when asked if Trump’s absence showed the lack of importance of the ASEAN.
“We are good partners with the United States. We would also want to foster our partnership and an absence in an ASEAN summit like would not change the equation of our relationship,” he added.
Trump will reportedly skip the 35th ASEAN summit and related meetings and send US National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in his stead. This will be second consecutive year the US leader will miss the regional gathering in Asia.
The White House did not say why Trump opted to skip the regional meetings in Thailand.
Andanar said he was certain that Trump will be well represented by US officials during the summit in Thailand.
“I don’t know the reason why US President Donald Trump is skipping the 35th ASEAN summit, the same way he skipped the summit in Singapore. I am pretty certain the United States will be well-represented by a US official and that official who will represent Donald Trump will be his alter ago,” he said.