Trump finished the last leg of his Asia tour in Manila but missed the East Asia Summit due to a delay in meeting schedules.
President Trump arrived in Manila, Nov 12, for the last leg of his 12-day Asia-Pacific tour.
His arrival was met with hundreds of leftist activists marching towards the US embassy in Manila, holding signs reading ‘Dump Trump’ and ‘Down with US Imperialism’. Protesters in Manila fear the creation of more military bases in the Philippines as a result of Trump’s hostilities with North Korea and were not unlike the demonstrators in South Korea last week, who accused Trump of using the North Korean threat to pressure South Korea into buying more US equipment and artillery.
Later that day, around 8:00 pm local, Trump attended a gala celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. There, President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines sang a song on stage. Duterte later explained that the performance was “upon the orders of the commander-in-chief of the United States,” to laughter and applause from the audience and smiles from President Trump.
The following day, Nov 13, was the start of the Association for Southeast Asian Nations conference. Trump met with Philippines President Duterte as well as Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in bilateral and trilateral meetings that took up most of the day.
In a trilateral meeting with Australian Prime Minister Turnbull and Japanese Prime Minister Abe, Trump and the other leaders reaffirmed their shared “fundamental values” and their commitment to ensuring peace and stability in the region in the face of the North Korean threat. Trump also used the opportunity to publicize the “big progress on trade” that he has accomplished during his 12-day tour, in addition to about $300 billion in sales that have been forged between the US and foreign companies.
Next, at around 1:00 pm local, President Trump met with President Duterte of the Philippines in a bilateral meeting that affirmed the alliance between their two countries. In the past, Trump has praised President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, which has drawn the attention of various human rights groups that have denounced the Philippines President’s sanction of extrajudicial killings.
“I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem,” said Trump in a telephone call between the two leaders in April. “Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”
Anti-drug campaign and Duterte
During remarks by the leaders before their meeting, Trump ignored shouted questions from reporters about the controversial anti-drug campaign and Duterte, saying that their bilateral meeting was not a press conference, called the reporters “spies” and asked them to “kindly go out.”
According to White House press secretary Sanders, “Human rights briefly came up in the context of the Philippines’ fight against illegal drugs.” A statement by the White House also claimed that President Trump and Duterte “underscored that human rights and the dignity of human life are essential, and agreed to continue mainstreaming the human rights agenda in their national programs to promote the welfare of all sectors, including the most vulnerable groups.”
In seeming contrast, however, President Duterte’s spokesman Harry Roque stated: “The issue of human rights did not arise; it was not brought up.”
Mr. Roque claimed that Mr. Trump had “appeared sympathetic and did not have any official position on the matter and was merely nodding his head, indicating that he understood the domestic problem that we faced on drugs.”
In contrast to Trump, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the issue of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines during the summit, a topic that almost every other leader sidestepped. “The president was receptive to my comments and it was throughout a very cordial and positive exchange,” Trudeau told reporters after his conversation with Duterte.
At a 2:57 pm local, Trump delivered a speech at the summit, commending President Duterte on his success as ASEAN chair and thanking Prime Minister Najib of Malaysia for acting as coordinator. Hating to lose a single opportunity to reference US economic success since his time in office, Trump also went on to talk about the rising value of the US stock market and low unemployment rate of the US: “We have the highest stock market we’ve ever had. We have the lowest unemployment in 17 years. The value of stocks has risen $5.5 trillion.”
Claiming that US success “bodes very well” for those in the Southeast Asian region, as its partners and allies, Trump went on to say that the US wants its partners to be “strong, independent, and prosperous, in control of their own destinies, and satellites to no one. These are the principles behind our vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
After Trump’s speech, Duterte thanked the president for his remarks and then stated, “this signifies the end of our open session. I would like to request media to leave us alone.”
Trump then met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India in a bilateral meeting, around 4:30 pm local, during which the two leaders discussed the comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and India and their shared commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
During the meeting, Trump and Modi pledged to enhance their cooperation as Major Defense Partners, resolving that “two of the world’s great democracies should also have the world’s greatest militaries.”
The following day, Nov 14, Trump departed from the Philippines to return back to the US at 3:26 pm local, missing the East Asia Summit (EAS) due to a two-hour delay in meeting schedules.
Before his departure for Asia, on Nov 3, President Trump unexpectedly decided to extend his trip an extra day, after receiving criticism, in order to attend the regional summit. But on Tuesday, Trump did not make it to the official start of the summit in the afternoon due to the aforementioned delay. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will attend the plenary session in his place, a senior White House official stated.
President Trump later told reporters on Air Force One that he had delivered his prepared remarks during a lunch with the political leaders instead of at the summit meeting. “We’ve explained that the United States is open for trade but we want reciprocal, we want the fair trade for the United States,” Trump stated.
The President is en route back to Washington, where he says he will deliver a “major statement” on Wednesday to discuss his accomplishments during his 12-day Asia-Pacific tour.