In accordance with official figures, Trump will symbolize the US at this week's APEC digital summit

© Reuters. US President Trump provides information about the so-called Coronavirus treatment program Operation Warp Speed ​​in a televised address from the rose garden of the White House in Washington

By David Brunnstrom

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump plans to represent the United States at a virtual Asia-Pacific summit this week, which his Chinese counterpart, President Xi Jinping, will also attend, a US official told Reuters.

Trump's participation in the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum, hosted virtually by Malaysia on Friday, is his first since 2017, the only time he has attended.

"POTUS makes APEC," said a US official who refused to be identified, using the acronym for the President of the United States.

The White House declined to comment, and while Trump is currently due to attend APEC, the Republican president is grappling with an uphill battle to lose his November 3rd presidential election. In the past, he has changed his mind about attending such meetings.

The news comes after Trump's outgoing administration was criticized for lower-level participation at last weekend's virtual East Asia summit, on the edge of which 15 countries signed a major regional trade agreement backed by China.

China's Xi is said to be among the participants in the APEC leaders' meeting on Friday and also to hold a conference of managing directors from Thursday.

Last year's APEC summit, which Trump was supposed to attend, did not take place because Chile withdrew from hosting due to violent street protests.

Vice President Mike Pence represented the United States at APEC in 2018 amid mounting US-China tensions, which have since deteriorated to the worst levels in decades.

Trump failed in his re-election after an election campaign highlighting rivalry with China despite refusing to admit defeat. Democratic rival Joe Biden will take office on January 20th.

The summit is happening practically this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has hit the United States hardest and which Trump has blamed on China.

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