By JONATHAN LEMIRE
NEW YORK (AP) - President Donald Trump will skip a key Asia summit at the end of his trip to the region next month.
The White House said Tuesday that Trump will be returning to the United States on Nov. 14, which is the same day as the East Asia Summit (EAS) in the Philippines. Trump is slated to attend the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, which is also in the Philippines, the day before but he will not stay the extra day.
Another U.S. delegation that will attend the EAS, which will include more than a dozen Asian nations as well as Australia, New Zealand and Russia. The White House did not give a reason as to Trump's absence.
The Philippines will be the final stop of Trump's 12-day, five-nation trip - his first to Asia. The trip is expected to be dominated by Trump demanding that American allies in the region increase pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.
But for all of President Trump's overheated talk about North Korea's Kim Jung Un and the country's nuclear program, Trump will likely not make the customary presidential visit to the heavily fortified border between North and South Korea known as the Demilitarized Zone. Trump has derided Kim as "Little Rocket Man" and threatened to unleash "fire and fury" on Pyongyang if its leaders do not abandon the weapons program.
If Trump doesn't go while in South Korea, he would be breaking from recent presidential custom. All presidents but one since Ronald Reagan have visited the DMZ, which has separated the North and South for 64 years.
He will also advocate American economic interests during his trip, which include stops in Japan and China before traveling to Vietnam for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meetings. The trip will conclude in the Philippines, where the president is slated to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte, who has been accused of human rights abuses, including killing suspected drug dealers. The White House said Trump could raise concerns about the program.
The Washington Post first reported Trump decision's to skip the East Asia Summit, which mostly focuses on general strategic issues rather than the economic matters at APEC. The White House said Trump may attend some meetings related to the East Asia Summit before the gathering officially begins.
Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
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