News / USA

Q&A: Impact of Obama's Decision to Skip Asia Summit

FILE - President Barack Obama waves from Air Force One as he departs West Palm Beach, where he spent the Presidents Day weekend playing golf.
FILE - President Barack Obama waves from Air Force One as he departs West Palm Beach, where he spent the Presidents Day weekend playing golf.
The White House has announced that U.S. President Barack Obama is canceling his plans to travel to Asia for diplomatic visits and an APEC summit because of the government shutdown. VOA's Marissa Melton spoke to White House correspondent Dan Robinson about what that means for the United States' relationship with its Asian allies.
 
Q: First of all, what does this cancellation mean in a practical sense, and then in a symbolic sense?
 
A: Well, this is a big deal for a U.S. president, especially one who has emphasized the importance of the Asia/Pacific region, not only at APEC but at other forums like ASEAN, the East Asia summit under the rubric of ASEAN. A big deal for a U.S. president to miss two APEC summits two years in a row.  As you know, President Obama was not able to go to the APEC summit in Vladivostok last year because of the U.S. presidential election campaign. This is bound to raise further questions in Asia among those who are questioning U.S. commitment not only to the strategic pivot but to the whole regional focus or rebalancing of U.S. economic interests in the region.
 
Q: We haven’t even had a president visit Malaysia in a couple of decades, isn't that right?
 
A: That’s right. Earlier, before the announcement that the rest of the trip would be canceled, the White House announced that President Obama would not be going to Malaysia. That would have been the first visit by a U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson way back in 1966. Also cancelled was the stop in the Philippines. President Obama has said he looks forward to making those visits at some point during his second term, but clearly this is going to put a lot of pressure, there’s no doubt that Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Hagel, who have been traveling in the region, can carry the weight for the United States, but again this is very important for the U.S. president to attend not only the APEC summit but also the east Asia summit and meetings with ASEAN.
 
Q: Is this cancellation about the cost of the trip, or about putting pressure on Republicans here at home?
 
A: Well, absolutely, and you saw this in the White House statement, blaming “the Republican shutdown,” what the White House calls the Republican shutdown of the U.S. government. The White House has made the point that East Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, is so important for U.S. jobs, for the U.S. economy, and here you have this dilemma that exists in Washington where the government remains shut down and President Obama has been in such a quandary with Republicans on Capitol Hill. The analysts that I’ve spoken to over the last few weeks in reporting this story leading up to this cancellation say there have been serious questions beginning at least a year ago about the U.S. budget sequestration and the fact that the United States couldn't get a budget done and concerns about the U.S. maintaining security relationships. Now, the U.S. military strategic pivot is moving forward, analysts say, but again there are these nagging questions about whether the full U.S. government has been engaged or can be engaged in this Asia rebalance.
 
Q: How likely is it that this cancellation will have an effect on the standoff between the Republicans, the Democrats and the White House?
 
A:   Personally, from my observations, I don’t think this is going to have much of an effect. One of the things some of these analysts noted was that the members of Congress who used to be very, very engaged and concerned about our relationships with the Asia Pacific -- Senator Jim Webb, for example, Joe Lieberman - many of the lawmakers are no longer in Congress. So the impact of the president having to miss such a trip is probably going to be reduced, although there'll clearly be some concern. The real question is, how Obama will be able to recover from this and, in the next year or so, make it clear to Asian allies and partners that the United States is definitely committed, at least for the second term that Obama has in the White House.
 
Q: Is a rescheduled visit enough to make it up to the Asian countries he’s having to cancel on right now, or will he need to go an extra mile to reestablish the relationship with them?
 
A: He will have to go the extra distance. For some who have suggested for example that he make a specific, lead a trip to the Asia Pacific, to lead a group of business CEO’s and go with them to the region, to kind of reinforce the United States’ determination to remain engaged.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid