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Diplomat Sees US Focus Shifting from Mideast to Asia-Pacific


U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell listens to a question during a joint news conference with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin (not shown) in Seoul June 10, 2011.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell listens to a question during a joint news conference with South Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Jae-shin (not shown) in Seoul June 10, 2011.

A leading U.S. diplomat says America must refocus from vexing near-term challenges in the Middle East to longer-term concerns in the Asia-Pacific region.

Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia, made the remark in a newspaper interview published Monday in The Australian. He says the United States will not neglect its responsibilities in the Middle East, but that it needs to transition to the "deeply consequential" issues in Asia.

Campbell tells the newspaper that recent economic problems have left many Asians seeking reassurances about the continued effectiveness and relevance of the United States.

He says those concerns have led him and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to project a basic message to the region: The U.S. is in Asia to stay and its security and economic commitments remain as strong as ever.

Campbell tells The Australian that reports of U.S. decline are "vastly overblown" and that most Asians appreciate that the democratic, free-market system is the best possible for dealing with current challenges.

The diplomat says there are some in China who are pushing their government to take a harder line with the United States, including a powerful online community and the People's Liberation Army.

He says he does not see diplomacy in China as a "zero-sum game" in which one country's gain is the other country's loss. But he says the United States is deepening its relations with China's neighbors.

Campbell says Washington is interested in seeing India play a bigger role in the region. Campbell added that the United States is also revitalizing its relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.

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