DANANG, Nov 10 — US President Donald Trump landed in Vietnam today for a summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) countries at which the White House said he will set out a vision for a “free and open Indo-Pacific region” likely to touch on both security and trade.
Trump arrived in Vietnam from China, on the fourth leg of his 12-day Asia trip, where he praised Chinese leader Xi Jinping as “highly respected” and Chinese media declared that the visit had set a “new blueprint” for handling US-China relations and differences.
Trump broke early with the “Pivot to Asia” of the Obama administration, worrying some traditional allies that he would allow China to extend its increasing dominance.
Apec, which has long championed free trade, has itself been convulsed by the “America First” policy which Trump says is needed to give a better deal to American workers.
Since Trump abandoned the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal early in his presidency, the remaining 11 members have struggled to build momentum to keep it alive.
Leaders of TPP countries are due to meet today after talks among ministers ended in confusion yesterday with Japan’s economy minister saying that they “agree in principle” and his Canadian counterpart saying that was not true.
Trade and foreign ministers from Apec countries have so far failed to release their usual statement from the summit because of what officials say is wrangling over wording on free trade and fighting protectionism that the United States rejects.
They are meeting at the resort of Danang on the shore of the South China Sea, one of the region’s biggest security challenges and where China’s neighbours challenge its sweeping claim to most of the waterway as having no basis in law.
Danang has a special place in US-Vietnamese history: it was where the first US ground troops disembarked in 1965 in the escalation of a war that would last another decade before the communist victory.
Danang was close to some of the heaviest fighting and its air base was the route through which many Americans of Trump’s generation were sent to the war. Trump himself did not serve, receiving five deferments — one for bone spurs in his heel. — Reuters