U.S. President Donald Trump says tensions on the Korean Peninsula and global trade will be key issues as a gathering of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) kicks off in the Philippines.
Trump told reporters ahead of the opening ceremonies that he raised the issue of North Korea’s missile tests during talks early on November 13 with the prime ministers of Japan and Australia on the sidelines of the Manila summit.
He said he told Japan's Shinzo Abe and Australia's Malcolm Turnbull that a “lot” of progress has been made in trade negotiations.
"We've made some very big steps with regard to trade -- far bigger than anything you know," Trump told reporters.
U.S. trade relations with much of Asia are in flux. Since becoming president, Trump has pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a major trade agreement, arguing it would damage America's economic interests.
He has vowed to make trade deals that are more beneficial to the United States.
Trump added that he would wait until his return to Washington on November 15 to present a "major statement" in regard to his Asia trip.
In brief remarks before the start of the summit, Turnbull said North Korea needed to end its "recklessness."
Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is also scheduled to address the summit.
Trump is in the Philippines on the final stop of a 13-day tour of Asia.
On November 12, Trump and Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte attended a gala dinner in Manila with 17 other world leaders.
At the dinner, Duterte sang a hit Filipino love song, saying later it was "on the orders of U.S. President Donald Trump."
One of the verses of the Filipino-language song Ikaw (You) translates as, "You are the light in my world, a half of this heart of mine."
Hours before Trump’s arrival in the country, riot police used water cannons to prevent hundreds of anti-American protesters from reaching the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
The Philippines is a former U.S. colony. For decades, the countries were strategic allies, although relations have deteriorated in recent years over allegations of human rights violations made by Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, against Duterte and his government.
Duterte said last week he would tell Trump to "lay off" if he raised the issue of human rights when they meet on the sidelines of the summit.
Duterte has boasted about personally killing people and is waging a drug war that has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings and drawn condemnation from rights advocates.
With reporting by Reuters and dpa