Vice President Kamala Harris will represent the United States next month in Bangkok in the third in a trio of Asian summits, the White House confirmed Friday, as President Joe Biden returns for his granddaughter’s wedding.
Biden will travel on November 11 to the annual UN climate conference in Egypt before heading to the East Asia Summit in Cambodia and the Group of 20 in Bali, the White House said.
But he will not attend the summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum taking place in the Thai capital on November 18-19.
Harris will attend instead and travel afterward to the Philippines, a longtime US ally, with her husband, Doug Emhoff.
The White House said in a statement that her visit would “re-affirm 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.
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 Biden’s decision to skip the APEC summit.
His eldest granddaughter, Naomi Biden, earlier this year announced plans to get married on November 19 on the White House’s South Lawn, only the 19th wedding ever held at the US executive mansion, according to the White House Historical Association.
Biden will likely have a chance to visit Thailand in 2023 when the kingdom takes over from Cambodia as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which leads the annual East Asia Summit.
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 Biden will miss the APEC summit next year as the host is the United States.
The summit venue has not been announced but the State Department said that APEC top diplomats will hold a preparatory meeting in August 2023 in Seattle, three months after the bloc’s trade officials gather in Detroit.