Obama cancels Asia trip citing government shutdown

Posted by Lesley Clark on October 3, 2013 

President Obama has cancelled a planned trip to Asia, citing the government shutdown.

Obama had been scheduled to leave Washington late Saturday for summits in Indonesia and Brunei, but instead called leaders in those countries to express regret, the White House said.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Obama made the decision "based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government."

Obama told the leaders that Secretary of State John Kerry will lead delegations to both countries in his place.

Carney blamed Republicans for the move, saying "the cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government. 

"This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world," Carney said.

Obama, who in 2010 twice canceled trips to the region -- because of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and health care debate -- had already shortened the trip, scrapping stops in Malaysia and the Philippines earlier this week.

Analysts say the disruption could set back the administration's efforts to refocus on Asia, which boasts among the fastest growing economies in the world and is dealing with an aggressive China.

"If Obama does not go to Asia at all, U.S. allies and partners in the region will worry that the United States is incapable of sustaining high-level engagement due to political paralysis at home," writes Ernest Bower, senior advisor and Sumitro Chair for Southeast Asia Studies at the Center for International and Strategic Studies. 

He wrote that although Obama's domestic policy advisers would make the case that Obama can't make the trip under a shutdown, his national security and foreign policy teams "will understand the unmistakable damage that canceling his entire trip would do to relationships with Asian partners and to the strategic trust that was hard-earned during the president’s first term."

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