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International relations

ASEAN leaders mostly skip US talks after Trump no-show

In a letter, absent American president proposes hosting special summit next year

U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien, third from left, poses for a group photograph with ASEAN leaders and foreign ministers during a summit Monday.   © AP

BANGKOK -- Just three Association of Southeast Asian Nation leaders attended a summit between their bloc and the U.S. on Monday after U.S. President Donald Trump was a no-show for a second straight year, sending his national security adviser instead.

Of the 10 ASEAN countries, Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Laos' Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith were the only leaders present at the meeting with Robert O'Brien.

The other seven countries sent their foreign ministers. Some saw Southeast Asian leaders' nonattendance as a snub in response to the relatively low-ranking American presence.

O'Brien, who replaced John Bolton as Trump's national security adviser in September, does not hold a cabinet-level post.

O'Brien read a letter from Trump in which the president proposes holding a special summit with ASEAN leaders in the U.S. early next year.

Thailand holds ASEAN's rotating chairmanship, while Vietnam will serve as the next chair. Laos serves as the bloc's liaison with the U.S.

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