WASHINGTON: Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the United States at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Bangkok next month, the White House confirmed on Friday.
Ms Harris will be standing in for President Joe Biden, who will return home for his granddaughter’s wedding after attending a series of other international events.
Mr Biden will attend the UN climate conference in Egypt on Nov 11 before heading to the East Asia Summit in Cambodia on Nov 12-13 and the Group of 20 summit in Bali from Nov 13-16, the White House said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Mr Biden would use the COP27 talks in Egypt to “build on the significant work the United States has undertaken to advance the global climate fight and help the most vulnerable build resilience to climate impacts”.
In Cambodia, where the East Asia Summit will be held after the Asean leaders' meeting, he will reaffirm the United States’ enduring commitment to Southeast Asia, while underscoring the importance of US-Asean cooperation in ensuring security and prosperity in the region, Ms Jean-Pierre said.
In Indonesia, the president would work with G20 partners to address key challenges such as climate change, the global impact of the war on Ukraine, including on energy and food security and affordability, and other priorities important to the global economic recovery, the White House said.
Ms Harris, meanwhile, will visit the Philippines after attending the Apec summit in Thailand on Nov 18 and 19.
The White House said her visit to Manila would “reaffirm and strengthen the US-Philippines Alliance and underscore the breadth of our cooperation as friends, partners and allies”.
The United States is hoping for a smooth relationship with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr after rough patches with his abrasive predecessor, Rodrigo Duterte.
Mr Marcos scrapped a deal to buy military helicopters from Russia, the target of a US pressure campaign over its invasion of Ukraine, and has instead sealed a deal with the United States.
Thailand is also a treaty ally of the United States. Diplomats say that Thailand has been resigned to if not pleased with Mr Biden’s decision to skip the Apec event.
His eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden, earlier this year announced plans to get married on Nov 19 on the White House’s South Lawn, only the 19th wedding ever held at the US executive mansion.
Asian diplomats and experts put high value on US presidents’ attendance at such summits, seeing them as proof of Washington’s stated commitment to the region at a time when China is seeking to exert its clout.
But then US president Donald Trump also skipped the last in-person Apec summit, in 2018 in Papua New Guinea, with vice president Mike Pence attending instead.
It looks improbable that Mr Biden will miss the Apec summit next year as the host is the United States.