WASHINGTON (AP) - President Donald Trump on Tuesday canceled plans to travel to South America this week, choosing to stay in the United States to manage the U.S. response to Syria’s apparent chemical weapons attack on civilians.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Tuesday that Trump will not attend the 8th Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru or travel to Bogota, Colombia, as planned, remaining in the United States to “oversee the American response to Syria and to monitor developments around the world.”
The president’s new national security adviser, John Bolton, urged Trump to skip the trip, an official said. This reflects a view in the White House that deeper Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria have complicated calculations about a response to any U.S. military attack, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. Moscow has cautioned the U.S. not to launch a military attack.
Trump’s decision to skip the South America trip marks the first time an American president has not attended the summit. Vice President Mike Pence will travel in Trump’s place, attending the summit in Lima but not traveling to Colombia.
The international chemical weapons watchdog said it will send “shortly” a fact-finding mission to the Syrian town where the suspected gas attack took place, after receiving a request from the Syrian government and its Russian backers to investigate the allegations. It was not immediately clear whether the announcement by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would delay or avert U.S. military action against Syria.
In New York, U.N. Security Council diplomats said the United States called for a vote on a resolution that would condemn the continuing use of chemical weapons in Syria “in the strongest terms” and establish a new body to determine responsibility for chemical attacks. The diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of an announcement, said the U.S. asked for a midafternoon vote.