WASHINGTON • President Donald Trump plans to represent the United States at the virtual Asia-Pacific leaders' summit today in which his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping is set to participate, a US official said.
Mr Trump's participation in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) forum hosted virtually by Malaysia today will be his first since 2017, the only time he has participated.
The news comes after Mr Trump's outgoing administration faced criticism for lower-level participation at last weekend's virtual East Asia Summit, on the sidelines of which 15 countries signed a major China-backed regional trade deal.
"Potus is doing Apec," said a US official, who did not want to be identified, using the acronym for the President of the United States.
The White House declined to comment and while the current plan is for Mr Trump to take part in Apec, the Republican President is preoccupied with an uphill battle to contest his defeat in the Nov 3 presidential election.
In the past, he has changed his mind about taking part in such meetings.
China's President Xi is scheduled to be among the participants in today's Apec leaders' meeting, after he addressed a chief executives' conference yesterday.
Last year's Apec summit, which Mr Trump had been due to attend, did not take place because Chile backed out of hosting it amid violent street protests.
Vice-President Mike Pence represented the US at Apec in 2018 amid heightened US-China tensions, which have deteriorated since to their worst level in decades.
Mr Trump failed in his re-election bid after a campaign that highlighted rivalry with China, although he has refused to concede defeat.
Democratic rival and President-elect Joe Biden is due to take over on Jan 20.
The Apec event is being held virtually this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has hit the US hardest and which Mr Trump has blamed on China.
An American official in charge of Apec said last week the US had yet to decide who would attend the leaders' meeting, suggesting that Mr Xi would take the spotlight at a time of steadily increasing Chinese influence across Asia.
Mr Trump's East Asia Summit no-show was viewed by many analysts as a snub even though his administration had declared the Asia-Pacific and competition with China a foreign policy priority.