U.S. President Donald Trump hopes to invite Russia, South Korea, Australia and India to the next Group of Seven summit, signaling his desire to find partners as he blames China for the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said Saturday that he will postpone the G-7 summit from June to September, around the time that the United Nations General Assembly meets. But he also suggested it could be held after the U.S. election in November.
"So it might be a G-10, G-11, and it could be after the election is over," he said.
Notably missing from the invitation list is China. Trump has criticized Beijing for its initial handling of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed more people in the U.S. than in any other country. The president alleged Friday that China "instigated a global pandemic."
American lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are taking a harder line against Beijing. With bipartisan support, Congress has passed bills to increase monitoring of Chinese companies listed in the U.S. and to impose sanctions on senior Chinese officials for the crackdown on the country's Uighur Muslim minority.
The U.S. chairs the G-7 organization of leading industrial nations this year, so Trump is free to extend invitations. He has suggested that Russia, which was expelled from the group in 2014 following its annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, should be allowed to join. Other G-7 nations have rebuffed that idea.
Trump said he does not "feel that as a G-7 it properly represents what's going on in the world," calling it a "very outdated group of countries."
By expanding the G-7, Trump hopes to discuss ways to deal with China, those close to the president say. His increasingly tough stance against Beijing is widely seen as an attempt to win votes in the November election, and it is unclear whether other members of the group would agree to an expansion.
On Friday, Trump ordered his administration to begin the process of ending special U.S. treatment for Hong Kong in retaliation for Beijing's decision to impose a new security law on the global financial hub.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo added to the criticism of China, saying Sunday on a Fox Business interview that the Communist Party "has come to view itself as intent upon the destruction of Western ideas, Western democracies, Western values."
The summit, initially set to begin June 10 at the Camp David presidential retreat near Washington, was switched to a videoconference format due to the pandemic. Trump then called for an in-person meeting and pushed to hold it at the White House starting June 25.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had indicated his intent to attend the summit in Washington, but German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Washington on Friday that she will not be traveling to the U.S.
"The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G-7 summit at the end of June in Washington," a German government spokesman told the Nikkei Asian Review in a statement. "As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington. She will of course continue to monitor the development of the pandemic."
Expanding the G-7 on a permanent basis could face headwinds from the political calculations of other members.
Japan has long enjoyed its position as the sole Asian member of the group, which offers a rare setting that excludes China. It could be reluctant to share that spotlight with South Korea.
Trump's enthusiasm for including Russia is not shared by other members, especially those in Europe.
Any expansion also raises the issue of differentiating the G-7 from the Group of 20 leading rich and developing nations. Excluded members such as Brazil, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia may ask why they are not invited.