The White House has all but ended speculation that Donald Trump will visit Australia this year, announcing that Mike Pence will instead represent the administration for a tour of south-east Asia in November.
The White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said Trump had asked the vice-president to attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meeting in Papua New Guinea and the US–Association of Southeast Asian Nations Summit and the East Asia Summit in Singapore.
There were expectations Trump would attend the Apec event in November and would also visit Australia while in the region. The US president attended last year’s Apec meeting in Vietnam, where he attacked other countries for “cheating” America.
The prime minister, Scott Morrison, had invited Trump to Australia when the pair spoke for the first time in a phone call last Saturday.
They are likely to meet for the first time when they attend the G20 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, also in November.
In her statement, Sanders did not say whether Pence would visit Australia for the second time. He met the former prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, in Australia for high-level talks in August.
Trump will instead travel to France for a commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the first world war.
“While in Europe the president also will visit Ireland to renew the deep and historic ties between our two nations,” Sanders said.
The US president’s relationship with Morrison’s predecessor got off to a rocky start when Trump reportedly berated Turnbull in a now infamous leaked phone call.
They appeared to make their peace when Turnbull visited the US in February.
Morrison said in a tweet last Saturday that he had a “great discussion” in his first call with Trump.
“We affirmed the strength of the relationship between the US and Australia,” he said.
Trump had also congratulated Morrison’s new role in a tweet, saying there were “no greater friends than the United States and Australia”.
Morrison is in Indonesia and was scheduled to give a speech at a business breakfast in Jakarta on Saturday.
On Friday, Morrison and the Indonesian president, Joko Widodo, signed a memorandum of understanding committing both countries to finalising a free-trade deal in the coming months.