June 01, 2020 10:39
U.S. President Donald Trump on Saturday invited Korea, Australia, India and Russia to the normally exclusive G7 summit, which has been postponed till September.
As the incumbent holder of the rotating G7 chairmanship, he can invite countries outside the rich-nations club that want to attend as observers.
The aim is to bring in traditional U.S. allies to discuss how to deal with future challenges posed by China, according to the White House spokeswoman Alyssa Farah.
The move comes as relations between Washington and Beijing hit freezing point over the origin of the COVID-19 outbreak and the Hong Kong crisis. China recently approved a new national security law for Hong Kong considered threatening the city's semi-autonomous status and the U.S. warned that it would revoke its special status that allows it to be treated differently from China in trade.
Seoul worries that the summit will be an opportunity to force it to choose sides in Washington's anti-China campaign.
Trump expressed dissatisfaction with the entire framework, which is not immediately apt to further his personal aims. "I don't feel that as a G7 it properly represents what's going on in the world," Trump told reporters on Air Force One. "It's a very outdated group of countries."
It consists of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.K. besides the U.S. "We want Australia, we want India, we want Korea," he added. "That's a nice group of countries right there."
He said he is planning the summit as a face-to-face meeting in New York in September, when the UN General Assembly also convenes. A Cheong Wa Dae official said Seoul will discuss the issue with Washington, hinting that the "invite," such as it was, was one of the U.S. president’s off-the-cuff remarks rather than a formal announcement.
The Australian government however said it had been contacted
Some welcomed Korea's inclusion as a sign of its improved international standing, but others worry that Trump's increasingly belligerent China policy will be a diplomatic nightmare.
Trump is obsessed with China as his chances of reelection fade and has harshly criticized it on anything from the coronavirus epidemic to the new Hong Kong security laws.
But Korea is in the awkward position of having to balance the interests of its two biggest markets, both of which increasingly resort to bullying tactics in their diplomacy.
Meanwhile, Trump had hoped to postpone the summit till only around late June and hold it at Camp David to show how adroitly the U.S. is managing the coronavirus pandemic, but the death toll has ruled that out. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, one of the "outdated" countries on Trump's list, already rebuffed him saying she "cannot agree" to travel due to the pandemic.
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