U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told Asia-Pacific leaders that Washington remains focused on the region despite the absence of President Barack Obama from a regional summit that began Monday in Indonesia.
Filling in for Mr. Obama at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit on the island of Bali, Kerry said there is "nothing that will shake the commitment" of the U.S. president to a strategy of rebalancing U.S. policy toward Asia.
Mr. Obama canceled his attendance at the APEC summit to deal with domestic budgetary disputes that led to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government.
The U.S. president's no-show has disappointed his Asia-Pacific allies, who have been seeking stronger ties with Washington to balance China's growing economic and military influence in the region.
Kerry downplayed the U.S. government shutdown, calling it a "moment in politics" that Washington will "move beyond with strength and determination."
In Mr. Obama's absence, Chinese President Xi Jinping took the spotlight on Monday, telling an APEC forum that China wants to live in "amity" with its Asia-Pacific neighbors and sees the region as a "big family."
Mr. Xi also said he is "fully confident" that China will sustain a level of economic growth that it needs.
Ahead of the APEC summit, President Xi signed a $33-billion trade deal with Indonesia, and pledged to significantly boost trade with Malaysia by 2017.
President Obama had planned to use the summit to advance negotiations for a U.S.-led regional trade bloc that excludes China. He has set a goal of concluding a deal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, by the end of this year.
Twelve APEC members are engaged in TPP negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.
Kerry told the APEC forum that Washington believes the TPP is critical to generating growth and jobs for Asia-Pacific economies by "unleashing a wave of investment and entrepreneurship" in the region.
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed sympathy for Mr. Obama's decision to skip the APEC summit, calling it "quite justified." Mr. Putin said that if he were in a similar situation, he would not have come to the gathering either.
In another speech Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged to forge ahead with promised reforms to boost Japan's stagnant economy.
Media reports said the summit declaration, which will be released Tuesday, will stress the need for economic reforms to increase worker productivity, labor force participation and high-quality job creation.