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White House Outlines Asia Priorities, Announces Upcoming Obama Visit

The White House says President Barack Obama will visit Asia in April 2014 as part of a push to re-focus U.S. attention on the vast region and forge closer political and economic ties.

National Security Adviser Susan Rice, in an address Wednesday on Asia-Pacific policy, told an audience at Georgetown University that "re-balancing" U.S. attention toward Asia remains a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy.

Rice acknowledged disappointment at home and abroad when Mr. Obama called off an Asia trip last month to deal with a U.S. government shutdown. She said "our friends in Asia deserve, and will continue to get, our highest level attention."

The envoy sought to bolster her pledge by citing ongoing U.S. assistance to the typhoon-ravaged Philippines, which includes the deployment of more than 1,000 U.S. Marines as well as key elements of the U.S. 7th Fleet.

Rice also spoke of upgrading Asia-Pacific security arrangements, and said those upgrades include plans for basing 60 percent of the U.S. naval fleet in the region by 2020.

Additionally, Rice said the Obama administration will pursue a trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a concept that China has in the past characterized as a U.S.-led effort to isolate it.

Twelve APEC members are currently engaged in TPP negotiations: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, along with Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

But Wednesday, Rice said the United States will "welcome any nation," including China, to participate in the pact and share its benefits, which proponents say include generating growth and jobs across the region.

Additionally, she said the United States is prepared for negotiations with North Korea on Pyongyang's suspect nuclear program, provided such talks are "authentic and credible" and cover the North's nuclear program in its entirety.

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