Nervous about China, Southeast Asia gets Trump's attention

Meanwhile, Ambassador Paynor confirmed that United States President Donald Trump will be visiting the Philippines in November 2017 for the ASEAN meeting. He, however, did not mention Trump's verbal assurance that he would attend the ASEAN summit.

The visit of the two leaders coincides with the 30th ASEAN Summit and Related Meetings to be held from April 26 to 29.

Paynor said all leaders from Asean countries, US, Japan, China, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and dialogue partners, were expected to attend the November summit.

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According to MalacaƱang's chief protocol officer Ambassador Marciano Paynor, Trump made the confirmation during his earlier phone call with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte a year ago.

Pence also confirmed the U.S. leader's attendance at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders' meeting set in the same month in Da Nang, Vietnam.

"However, our administrative rules, including procurement laws made it very hard for us to prepare because bidding process usually takes all of three months", he said. "And numerous leaders who do not attend do so because they have internal issues, which prevents them from coming", Mr. Paynor also said.

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"Multilateral meetings of this sort, we usually expect 100% attendance".

But he will have "formal" bilateral meetings with Sultan Bolkiah of Brunei on April 27 and Indonesian President Joko Widodo on April 28, Mr. Paynor said, adding that Mr. Duterte will also meet with the head of Laos but "we're still looking for a time".

"But we always say we will not be coerced or held hostage by these actions".

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The VP said Trump hopes to work with ASEAN on security issues, trade and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, Reuters reported. "With Brunei, similar issues that I feel will just be reiterated and perhaps further elucidated".


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