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Asia to Welcome President Obama


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U.S. President Barack Obama will make his first trip to Asia this month with stops in Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. In Singapore, Mr. Obama will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. It will be his first meeting with Southeast Asian leaders, including Burma. Many Asian countries are welcoming the renewed American engagement but some are disappointed Mr. Obama will not visit them on this trip.

In his first trip to Asia as President, Mr. Obama is expected to emphasize renewed cooperation between the U.S. and Asian nations.

His first stop is Japan, underscoring the importance of the U.S.-Japanese relationship. It's currently strained over the new government's review of the U.S. military presence.

Jeff Kingston is director of Asian studies at Japan's Temple University. He says the U.S. wants Japan to be a less reluctant ally.

"It's always Washington says how come you're not doing this, can you do a bit more of this," he said. "Twist their arm on this, push them here. The Japanese resent that."

In Singapore at the APEC forum, Mr. Obama will meet with the leaders of all 10 members of the Association of South East Asian Nations, including Burma.

The U.S. has changed its policy on Burma from isolating the military government to holding direct talks with the country's leaders.

ASEAN's Secretary General, Surin Pitsuwan, says U.S. engagement is fueling new optimism in the region.

"The last eight years or the last nine years, we haven't seen much willingness on the part of the U.S. Maybe because the U.S. has been preoccupied somewhere else and the problems in Southeast Asia and East Asia were not critical enough to require the American involvement, American attention. Well, it's a new approach it's a new beginning," he said.

President Obama will also visit China, where the relationship is seen as crucial for world growth.

Mr. Obama's last stop is South Korea. Talks there are expected to focus on how to convince North Korea to give up its nuclear program.

In Indonesia, where Mr. Obama spent four years as a child, people are disappointed that the president will not be visiting on this trip.

At the state school where Mr. Obama once studied, one student's mother expressed regret.

"We have been waiting for Obama to visit. Hopefully he will come later on." she said.

U.S. officials say Mr. Obama will visit Indonesia next year to underscore the importance of relations with the world's most populous Muslim nation.

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