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Donald Trump to attend NATO summit in May

IANS | Washington |

US President Donald Trump will attend a NATO leaders' summit scheduled for May, the White House said.

"The President looks forward to meeting with his NATO counterparts to reaffirm our strong commitment to NATO, and to discuss issues critical to the alliance, especially allied responsibility-sharing and NATO's role in the fight against terrorism," the White House said in a statement on Tuesday.

It added that, in addition to meeting the leaders, Trump will host NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the White House next month.

The April meeting with Stoltenberg has been arranged to prepare for a May 25 summit in Brussels on the "new security environment, including the alliance's role in the fight against terrorism, and the importance of increased defence spending and fairer burden-sharing", CNN reported on Wednesday.

The announcement of Trump's attendance comes on the heels of a decision by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to skip a NATO foreign ministers' meeting, and instead host Chinese President Xi Jingping later this month, before visiting Russia in April. 

The State Department has suggested "alternative dates" to NATO for the meeting, said the report.

Tillerson's decision not to attend the NATO ministerial meeting in Brussels has led to consternation amongst the US' European allies.

"Seeing the Chinese, then going to Russia and avoiding NATO in the middle — it's weird," said one NATO diplomat. 

"It shows that they don't care about NATO. They are not multilateral."

State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said that the meeting's dates didn't fit in Tillerson's schedule and a NATO official confirmed that the group was still negotiating with the State Department to schedule the meeting. 

Toner said the agency is "certainly appreciative of the effort to accommodate Secretary Tillerson".