“George W. Bush attended every year during his two-term presidency, and Bill Clinton - who started the tradition of US presidents participating at the forum at the behest of Paul Keating, only missed one, in 1995 amid another budget crisis in Washington.”
Trump's cancellation of his trip to PNG - which was expected to include a brief visit to Australia, most likely to Cairns - is being seen as a direct snub against the APEC forum, which began in Canberra in 1989 when it was hosted by Prime Minister Bob Hawke.
In a move that will be seen as weakening his administration's growing efforts to squeeze China, the president has prioritised other overseas travel in November - including the 100th commemoration of the World War I armistice in France, the G20 trip to Buenos Aires, as well as side visits to Ireland and Columbia.
Furthermore, it was reported that officials have been eager in recent weeks to highlight the new US "Indo-Pacific" strategy, which is aimed at revitalising Washington's commitment to the region and push back against China's rapid military and economic expansion.
“His absence would doubtlessly solidify the impression that America has essentially abandoned its traditional presence in the Asia Pacific, not to mention the non-starter Indo-Pacific,” Oh Ei Sun, senior adviser for international affairs at the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute in Kuala Lumpur, told Bloomberg News.
In his stead, United States Vice-President Mike Pence, who played an important role in bringing the 400-year-old King James Bible to Papua New Guinea, will attend the 2018 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Summit in November.
However, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill welcomed Pence with open arms at the weekend, saying he (Pence) would make an outstanding contribution to discussions during his presence in November.
He said details on other world leaders’ attendance would be announced as they become available.
(Picture: USA Today)