THE US-Asean Business Council said it was "deeply disappointed" with US President Donald Trump for again forgoing an annual summit of Southeast Asian nations, this time hosted virtually by Vietnam.
For the second year in a row, several leaders from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations were not present for its annual summit with the US on Saturday morning.
The US delegation was again led by National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, while Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met separately with regional officials.
"We are deeply disappointed by the Trump administration's repeated decision to have neither the president, vice president nor a cabinet member lead the US delegation to these critical summits in the last two years," said Alexander Feldman, chief executive officer of the council, a Washington-based advocacy group.
"Showing up matters," Feldman said. "High-level representation not only reaffirms the US commitment to the Indo-Pacific and Asean, but as a Pacific nation. The United States has an obligation to help forge a free and open Indo-Pacific for all."
In his opening remarks, O'Brien said, "Our strategic partnership, representing aspirations of nearly a billion people, has never been stronger."
"The United States has your back, and we know you have ours," he said.