In the latest setback to the administration's attempt to "pivot" its foreign policy to the burgeoning economies of Asia, President Barack Obama canceled a scheduled trip to the region to stay in Washington because of the government shutdown.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who's already in Indonesia today, will fill in for the president at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Bali and the East Asia Summit in Brunei. Kerry's scheduled Asia destinations include Bali, Indonesia; Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; and Manila, Phillippines.
Asia policy specialists have long lamented how Middle Eastern and North African crises - unrest in Egypt, the civil war in Syria - have blocked the Obama administration from fully pursuing its stated policy goal of deeper engagement in Asia, which accounts for 25 percent of U.S. exports – in support of 2.4 million American jobs – and 35 percent of its imports.
Not even a year ago, analysts were saying that Obama still hadn't settled on the right tone for executing his pivot to Asia. And now, with this week's canceled trip to the region, there are fresh questions about whether there's still a commitment to the pivot.
"The narrative is building pretty strongly that the pivot has lost its mojo because there is no champion," Michael Green, an Asia adviser in the George W. Bush administration, told USA Today.