Obama to underscore continued focus on Asia

Washington, April 19: US President Barack Obama’s trip to Asia next week is an “important opportunity” for him to underscore continued US focus on the region, the White House said Friday.

Calling it the world’s largest emerging region, National Security Adviser Susan Rice said: “We increasingly see our top priorities as tied to Asia, whether it’s accessing new markets or promoting exports, or protecting our security interests and promoting our core values.”

Obama’s week-long trip to Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, which begins Tuesday, makes up for his October travel cancelled due to a government shutdown over budget row and is his fifth to the region since taking office, Xinhua reported.

His administration is pursuing a strategy of rebalance to the region, by means of upgrading US alliances, participating in regional institutions, and building better and stronger relations with the emerging powers there.

“At a time of ongoing regional tensions, particularly with regard to North Korea and territorial disputes, the trip offers a chance for the US to affirm our commitment to a rules- based order in the region,” Rice told reporters at a briefing on the upcoming presidential trip.

“No other nation other than the United States has a network of alliances and partnerships in Asia that match ours, and our alliances remain the foundation of our strategy,” she added.

Economics will dominate the president’s trip, in which he is expected to press for progress in the delayed Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations, which involve Japan and Malaysia.

Obama’s visit to Malaysia is the first by an American president since October 1966.

IANS