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

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Lawi
X
William Ide
October 20, 2014 10:23 AM
China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Nigeria Agrees to Cease-Fire With Boko Haram

Islamist militant group Boko Haram and the Nigerian government have agreed to a cease-fire. The Nigerian government issued an order Friday, telling all military chiefs "to comply with the cease-fire agreement in all theaters of operations. Why now and the significance of the agreement are questions on some people’s minds. VOA's Mariama Diallo reports.
Video

Video Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

The offensive by Islamic State militants against the northern Syrian city of Kobani has caused hundreds of thousands of residents to flee to Turkey. They receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from the town of Suruc a few kilometers from the border.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.

All About America

AppleAndroid