Moscow says it has been receiving contradictory signals from the United States on a possible meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump in Vietnam.
This week’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit is seen as a rare venue to address a diplomatic standoff that has resulted in both Moscow and Washington reducing embassy staff and giving up diplomatic compounds.
But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on the sidelines of the summit on Friday that the prospects of a meeting between the two leaders are unclear yet.
“We don’t fully understand yet. But we are patiently continuing to work in order to come to an understanding. Both presidents are in town. One way or another they will cross paths,” he said.
The White House, however, said Trump will not have a separate meeting with his Russian counterpart.
“Regarding a Putin meeting, there was never a meeting confirmed, and there will not be one that takes place due to scheduling conflicts on both sides,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huackabee Sanders said.
“Now, they’re going to be in the same place,” she added. “Are they going to bump into each other and say hello? Certainly possible and likely. But in terms of a scheduled, formal meeting, there’s not one on the calendar and we don’t anticipate that there will be one.”
Trump and Putin will both attend the APEC summit in Danang along with the leaders of Japan, Russia, China, and South Korea.
Trump, who embarked on a tour of Asia this week, arrived in Vietnam on Friday for talks likely to be dominated by tensions over North Korea. He has already visited China and Japan as part of a five-nation Asia tour.
During talks with the Chinese leader in Beijing Thursday, Trump thanked Xi Jinping for supporting UN sanctions on North Korea and said the US and China had agreed on the need for Pyongyang to completely denuclearize.
The annual APEC summit is one of the largest gatherings on the annual diplomatic calendar, bringing together scores of world leaders and more than 2,000 CEOs.
APEC represents 21 Pacific Rim economies, the equivalent of 60 percent of global GDP and covering nearly three billion people, and has pushed for freer trade since its inception in 1989.
Xi counters Trump
In his speech to the summit, Xi said Asia-Pacific nations must “uphold multilateralism,” countering Trump’s message that the US would stay out of trade deals that in his words surrender the country’s sovereignty.
Trump has already withdrawn the US from free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP), calling it one-sided against the US and harmful to American workers and manufacturing.
Xi underlined the value of international cooperation and economic openness, saying globalization is an irreversible trend, but the world must work to make it more balanced and inclusive.
“In pursuing economic globalization, we should make it more open, more inclusive, more balanced, more equitable and more beneficial to all,” he said.
The Chinese leader has contrasted himself with Trump, who has pursued his “America First” agenda, and pulled the United States out of international deals.