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VP Pence Says Trump To Attend Asia Summits; Praises ‘Moderate’ Islam

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to journalists after a meeting with ASEAN officials in Jakarta on April 20.

U.S. President Donald Trump will attend a series of key summits in Asia in November, in a sign of America's "unwavering commitment" to the region, Vice President Mike Pence said April 20 in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.

Pence also praised Indonesia’s “moderate” form of democracy and said the Trump administration wants to strengthen its partnership with the world’s most-populous Muslim nation.

Trump will go to the US-ASEAN and East Asia meetings in the Philippines, as well as a gathering of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group in Vietnam, Pence said during a visit at the Jakarta headquarters of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) where he met representatives of the bloc.

Former President Barack Obama sought to refocus U.S. foreign policy on the region to counterbalance China's growing influence.

Trump's decision to attend the meetings could come as a surprise to some, given his "America first" rhetoric and his decision to abandon a Pacific trade pact.

The president's attendance at the meetings was "a sign, I hope to all, of our firm and unwavering commitment to build on the strong foundations that we already share," Pence said.

It was the latest signal on Pence's tour of Asia that the Trump administration is seeking to calm concerns after the president's often combative rhetoric unsettled allies.

In Jakarta, Pence praised Indonesia's democracy and “moderate form” of Islam and visited the region’s largest mosque to highlight his message.

Pence told at a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo that the U.S. wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Indonesia.

"As the second- and third-largest democracies in the world, our two countries share many common values including freedom, the rule of law, human rights, and religious diversity," Pence said. "The United States is proud to partner with Indonesia. It promotes and protects these values."

"Indonesia's tradition of moderate Islam frankly is an inspiration to the world and we commend you and your people. In your nation as in mine, religion unifies, it doesn't divide," he added.

During stops in South Korea and Japan, Pence reaffirmed U.S. treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

The East Asia Summit groups 18 countries including ASEAN member states, the United States, Russia, and China. APEC brings together 21 member states from either side of the Pacific.

Pence on April 20 also toured the biggest mosque in Muslim-majority Indonesia during a visit seen as highly symbolic.

With reporting by AFP and AP