WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump's administration has postponed a major summit of Asian leaders next month as coronavirus fears grow, a senior administration official told USA TODAY.
A special summit of ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, was supposed to be held in Las Vegas on March 14th.
“As the international community works together to defeat the novel coronavirus, the United States, in consultation with ASEAN partners, has made the difficult decision to postpone the ASEAN leaders meeting previously scheduled for mid-March,” a senior administration official, who declined to speak publicly because the cancellation of the event had not yet been formally announced, told USA TODAY. “The United States values our relationships with the nations of this critical region, and looks forward to future meetings.”
Members of ASEAN include Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines and Indonesia.
The decision comes as fears that the coronavirus will spread in the United States.
The global count of those sickened by the virus stood at more than 84,000, with nearly 3,000 people killed globally as of Friday.62 people in the U.S. have contracted COVID-19 as of Friday night.
The World Health Organization (WHO) raised the global coronavirus risk level to ‘very high' Friday.
The administration had planned the ASEAN Summit after Trump did not attend a summit with the group in Bangkok a few months ago.
The postponement of March's summit comes as the Trump administration is considering expanding the travel ban to countries that have “disproportionately high number of coronavirus cases.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Trump said he would consider travel restrictions but had said the situation did not demand it immediately.
“At the right time we may do that,” Trump said of travel restrictions to countries such as South Korea and Italy that have experienced recent spikes in cases. “But right now it’s not the right time.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had told reporters earlier this week: they were “working our way through“ the ASEAN summit, despite the coronavirus.
Contributing: John Fritze