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Obama to Miss APEC Summit Due to Shutdown

President Obama has canceled an upcoming trip to Asia because of the partial U.S. government shutdown that has entered its fourth day Friday.

The White House announced late Thursday that the president made his decision to cancel visits to Indonesia and Brunei based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of the shutdown and his plans to continue pressuring Republicans to allow a vote to reopen the government.

The White House says Secretary of State John Kerry will lead U.S. delegations to both countries, as well as to Malaysia and the Philippines. Kerry will attend the APEC summit in Bali in place of President Obama.

Earlier Thursday, President Obama said a simple bill to fund the government with no other issues attached -- including his signature health care plan, nicknamed "Obamacare" -- would pass the House of Representatives. Mr. Obama accused Republican House Speaker John Boehner of catering to a small group of conservative Republican extremists who want to defund or delay the health care plan as part of the next budget.

Boehner says Mr. Obama is refusing to negotiate. The speaker says all he wants is a discussion on the health care law, nicknamed "Obamacare" and what he calls "fairness" for the American people.

Democrats say they will reject any Republican efforts to partially reopen the government.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told CNN television Thursday that Boehner reneged on a promise to allow a vote on a clean funding bill, even after Democrats agreed to accept Republican spending levels. Reid said Boehner is afraid Republicans would oust him as speaker. Reid reminded Boehner that the country is more important than his job.

The shutdown has furloughed more than 800,000 federal workers and closed down all but the most essential government services, including air traffic control, Border Patrol, and most food inspectors. The Voice of America is continuing to broadcast. But national parks and museums are closed, telephone calls for income tax help are unanswered, and some medical research projects are suspended.

With the shutdown prompting Mr. Obama to cancel his Asia trip, he will be missing the second APEC summit in a row. VOA White House correspondent Dan Robinson says this throws into question the United States' commitment to the Asia Pacific region.

"As you know, President Obama was not able to go to the APEC summit in Vladivostock 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."

Robinson said fears have been growing for some time that economic strain is causing the U.S. to lose focus on security issues.

"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."

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