Around Asia: Obama shortens Asia trip

President Barack Obama’s planned week-long trip to Asia has been cut short as the partial shutdown of the US government entered its second day.

The White House said on Wednesday that Obama’s visit to Malaysia and the Philippines during the final leg of his Asian tour has been canceled.

Obama’s presence at two international summits—the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei—is also in doubt.

The US President is still scheduled to arrive in Indonesia on Friday before flying to Brunei.

Secretary of State John Kerry would visit Malaysia and the Philippines in Obama’s place, the White House said in a separate statement.

“Logistically, it was not possible to go ahead with these trips in the face of a government shutdown,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

Obama reportedly called both President Benigno Aquino and Prime Minister Najib Razak to tell them himself of that he will not be able to make his planned visits to the two Asian nations.

The trips can be rescheduled, Hayden said, adding that Obama is looking forward to continue the tour.

The federal government shut down Tuesday after Congress failed to agree on funding the government in the new fiscal year.

Analysts say that curtailing the trip to Asia could affect Obama’s foreign policy priority of strengthening ties with the fast-growing economies of Asia.

Some Asian diplomats have previously expressed concern that the Obama administration’s commitment to the region is beginning to wane.

China may also seize this opportunity to reinforce its influence in the region.

“The current situation in the United States has created a disaster for US foreign policy in the Asia Pacific region. And you can be sure that China will be there, making hay,” said Carlyle Thayer, emeritus professor at the Australian Defense Force Academy and an expert on geopolitical balance in the region.

By: Maesie Bertumen

Image of IMF Christine Lagarde,President Barack Obama, President Hu Jintao at APEC 2011: International Monetary Fund/Flickr

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