News / USA

US Government Shutdown Complicates Obama Asia Travel

President Barack Obama speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 1, 2013.
President Barack Obama speaking in the Rose Garden of the White House, Oct. 1, 2013.
A trip that President Barack Obama is scheduled to take to Asia has been cut short by the continuing stalemate between the White House and Republicans over the U.S. government shutdown.  

Shutdown politics continue to play out on Capitol Hill, and Obama called congressional leaders to the White House late Wednesday to discuss ways of finding a quick exit from the impasse.

The president was forced to cancel stops in Malaysia and the Philippines, phoning Prime Minister Najib Razak and President Benigno Aquino early Wednesday to express regrets.

The White House has not ruled out the possibility Obama may have to cancel the remaining legs of his trip, his attendance at the APEC summit in Bali, Indonesia and the East Asia Summit and Southeast Asian meetings in Brunei.

Obama is due to depart for Asia late Saturday Washington time.

Saying things will be evaluated on a day-by-day basis, press secretary Jay Carney said a decision by House Republicans to allow a "clean" vote on reopening the government could resolve the situation.

"It is an important responsibility of a president to travel and conduct foreign policy, to conduct discussions about economic growth and investment in the United States, in our economy, that creates jobs," he said. "The two summits that are taking place in Indonesia and Brunei offer opportunities, both economic opportunities and security opportunities, to the United States and that is why a trip like this for any president is useful and important to the American economy and the American people."

Secretary of State John Kerry, already traveling in Asia, will lead a U.S. delegation to Malaysia and the Philippines.  

Malaysia is a key economic, security and counterterrorism partner important to Obama's strategy of re-balancing U.S. economic and security priorities to Asia.  His visit there would have been the first by a sitting U.S. president since 1966.

His visit to the Philippines would have underscored historically close security and people-to-people ties with one of America's five Asian treaty allies, especially amid concerns about Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea.

Ernie Bower, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says there are significant ramifications of even a shortened Asia trip that will prompt new concerns among U.S. allies and partners about Washington's ability to sustain commitment to the region.

"[They] would have immediately questions not about whether President Obama is committed to the region, but whether the U.S. system will allow a sustained political focus and political capital to be spent on what the administration itself described as a pivot to Asia," said Bower.

Obama missed last year's APEC summit in Vladivostok because of the U.S. presidential election campaign.  Former president Bill Clinton missed two APEC summits in the 1990s.

Michael Green, a National Security Council official under former president George W. Bush, says a narrative has been building that the U.S. economic and security pivot and re-balancing to the region has lost momentum.

But he says this is something the Obama administration can recover from.

"It's ugly and it hurts us and it sticks out the most because we lead, and because our president can't go, but this stuff is happening everywhere," he said. "It is bad but it can be managed if the president and his team are really serious about the so-called pivot and engaging Asia and really call in some chits and make some effort to compensate for this."

In his phone calls to the Malaysian and Philippine leaders, Obama said he looks forward to being able to visit those countries at some point during his second term.

You May Like

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More