politics

Obama to visit Japan, S Korea, Malaysia, Philippines in April

27 Comments

U.S. President Barack Obama will seek to ease questions over the staying power of his strategic shift to increasingly tense East Asia in April with stops in Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and South Korea.

Obama's visits to Manila and Kuala Lumpur are intended to make up for his no-show when he cancelled a previous Asia tour in October amid domestic political strife in Washington.

A subtext to his visit will be rising territorial tensions between several U.S. allies and China, which deepened over Beijing's recent declaration of an "air defense identification zone" in the East China Sea.

Beijing was also angered last week when Washington stiffened its line on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, calling for it to adjust or clarify its claims.

Obama's stops in Japan and South Korea will also bolster close U.S. alliances, at a time of aggravated political tensions between its two Northeast Asian friends.

It was an open secret that Obama would call on Japan in April, to take up an invitation from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in December 2012.

But the decision to add South Korea to the trip came after rising pressure from Seoul and from the Asia policy community in Washington.

The move also reflects a desire to signal to North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un that there are no gaps in US and South Korean resolve to counter Pyongyang's nuclear program and belligerent rhetoric.

It also indicates that Obama is keen to avoid dealing a political slight to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye that could result from a presidential visit to Tokyo and not one to Seoul.

Relations between the two nations were severely rattled by Abe's December visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors war criminals among Japan's war dead.

Obama's Asia itinerary also includes one noticeable exception -- a stop in China. But he is expected to return to the region later in the year for regional summits in Australia, Beijing and Myanmar.

The White House said in a statement that Obama's April trip will highlight his "ongoing commitment to increase US diplomatic, economic and security engagement with countries in the Asia-Pacific region."

He is certain to try to push negotiations on a vast Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact that would include 12 nations, and is seen by some observers as an attempt to meet the economic challenge of a rising China.

The president however may encounter some skepticism from regional partners because Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, a key Obama ally, has expressed skepticism about granting him expanded powers to negotiate trade deals.

In light of Reid's remarks, Pacific Rim nations may be loath to make concessions in the trade talks, fearing that any deal agreed may be modified by the U.S. Congress.

Obama will stop first in Japan where he will meet Abe. Then he will travel to Seoul for talks with Park, likely to be dominated by North Korea's latest maneuvering on the divided peninsula.

Pyongyang is currently fuming at the prospect of annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises starting later this month and that it views as an act of war.

From Seoul, Obama will head to Malaysia to meet Prime Minister Najib Razak to discuss deepening defense and military ties.

Obama's final stop will be Manila, where he will meet President Benigno Aquino and discuss evolving military relations designed to include rotations of U.S. troops in the country.

The White House did not give exact dates for the trip, other than saying it would take place in late April.

Obama has declared he is America's first "Pacific President" and announced a rebalancing of military and strategic resources to the dynamic, fast-growing region.

But the cancellation of his trip last year, and the departure from his administration of big political hitters committed to the Asia pivot like former secretaries of state and defense Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, have prompted some concern in the region over U.S. staying power.

© (c) 2014 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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"increasingly tense East Asia"

Whose fault is this?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

What he can offer to them? Nothing.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Obama’s Asian trip excluding China in April should be a cleaner and more focused one, I think that he will be able to do better in tems of rallying the supports from allies and friends in the region without much distraction.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Obama should accommodate South Korea's whining and visit. To tell Park that unless South Korea stops supporting China and stops with this incessant inferiority complex driven hatred towards Japan, South Korea can not be relied upon as a US ally and we will withdraw our 28,000 troops and let South Korea defend itself.

6 ( +18 / -12 )

It also indicates that Obama is keen to avoid dealing a political slight to South Korean President Park Geun-Hye

...who can be counted on to give Obama an earful of shrill complaints about Japan, the same way she did to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel a few months back. Koreans just don't get it that American's don't have a dog in this fight.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

To tell Park that unless South Korea stops supporting China and stops with this incessant inferiority complex driven hatred towards Japan,

And I don't see how South Korea is supporting China.

What Ossan meant to say is that there is an order in Asia, in which Japan rides on USA's coat-tail, and South Korea on Japan's. People get upset when South Korea try to think and act they are equal to Japan.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Make no mistake, the US has high stakes in this part of Asia. In addition, the US is fully aware of competing interests and palpable tensions.

I would assume that one of the objectives that Obama wants to accomplish during his trip is to bring Japan and S.K a step closer, and thus rebuild the bruised ties of these two allying nations.

It would be awesome if Japan and S.K can make tangible efforts (e.g stop infighting and bickering) to create a productive environment for President Obama to facilitate.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

Yada, yada, yada. Nothing will come of this. Obama's more than a lame duck. He's just on a junket. Photo ops aplenty, no meat on the bones.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

You know why the American doesn't condemn Japan's continuing denial of its pass atrocities committed on South Korea and other Asian countries as it had with countries/politicians that have denied holocaust? USA can simple demand Japan ends its denial, as a simple command from the master to its lackey, but it chooses not too. Because it fits American's interest for the continue quarreling between Asian countries.

Simply, Divide and Conquer.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Korea is pivotal because the interests of the four powers converge there. But it's time to re-valuate the U.S. military role in Korea. The U.S. maintains the same defensive posture in Korea today as they did in 1953 in spite of the fact that the reality of today's situation has changed dramatically.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I wonder if Mr Obama will make any nice quips like “That’s the good thing about being president. I can do whatever I want.” or that he is 'actually pretty good at killing people." during the junket?

What offensive comments could he possibly make?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

iWorldFeb. 13, 2014 - 12:03PM JST You know why the American doesn't condemn Japan's continuing denial of its pass atrocities committed on South >Korea and other Asian countries as it had with countries/politicians that have denied holocaust?

Japan never committed any "atrocities" on south Korea. It didn't even exist during WWII. Apart from the Koreas and China, all of Asia, Russia, USA, Europe have moved on. The two countries that whine about Japan are China (PRC) which didn't even exist until after WWII was over, the ROC having fought the Japanese, and the Koreas which were part of the Japanese Empire. Maybe if these two countries had actually fought Imperial Japan like the rest of us maybe then you could move on.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Mr President, expect anti-American protests during your visit to the Republic of Korea They like to burn the American flag and stuff figures of the President of the USA. The South Koreans really do not like the USA as well as Japan. Everything you do for them makes the Korean hate stronger. Me and my guy were outside of the base in Seoul. A anti-American demonstration started and we had to run for our lives! We made it to the gate just as the demonstrators hit the police line.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

@ SerranoFEB. 13, 2014 - 07:21AM JST Whose fault is this?

It is America's fault. America can offer nothing other than exporting disorder and conflict in the name of TPP. Just imagine, how America declares Obama as The First Pacific President without consulting any of the so call 12 nations. America is trying to replay middle east in Asia-pacific. Whereas America can export war and conflict in the region, the brunt has to be borne by those so call 12 nations, mainly Japan, Korea, Philippine, Vietnam & Malaysia. Asia pacific cannot shift, they have to remain as neighbors. Whereas American policy can shift from one of confrontationist policy to befriending it, the region will fall from its grace as it cannot change its borders. This will leave behind a legacy of hatred in the region for decades to come, thereby weakening their economy rather than strengthening the region. This will ensure America to maintain its hegemony once the actual conflict started. Therefore Japan cannot fall into the trap of america in the name of TPP. TPP is just a smokescreen, the actual intention is creating conflict in the name of profit for the Asian. The actual intention is racking up disorder and conflict so that america can station their military bases in this region as a replacement from middle east. What America assume is that it will take 40 to 50 years to stabilized from the destabilized conditions, therefore America should shift quickly to the Asia Pacific for ratcheting war for its hegemony.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

Obama should accommodate South Korea's whining and visit. To tell Park that unless South Korea stops supporting China and stops with this incessant inferiority complex driven hatred towards Japan, South Korea can not be relied upon as a US ally and we will withdraw our 28,000 troops and let South Korea defend itself.

My thoughts exactly.

It's probably time for the U.S. to withdraw her troops completely. It's been a long time since 1953. Since Koreans yearn so much for reunification I'm sure the U.S. troops pulling out would hasten to make their dreams come true.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

What Ossan meant to say is that there is an order in Asia, in which Japan rides on USA's coat-tail, and South Korea on Japan's. People get upset when South Korea try to think and act they are equal to Japan.

America will have no countries on its "co-tails" if it wishes to remain a presence in the Pacific in the coming decades. They will rely on Japan on becoming an equal partner (once Japan finally gets off its backside about it) in order to retain status quo. SK care less about the partnership with America right now - they realise America is a fading power and China is a rising one and so long as they have China not standing in the way, SK will eventually take over the North and unify the country..

0 ( +2 / -2 )

And glaringly obvious is the absence of a visit to china from Obama's schedule, I wonder how the noisey Chinese will view this ?

1 ( +3 / -2 )

The US should let S. Korea handle her own business so she will stop whining. Just pull all the troops out, sit back and relax from the Koreas drama. N. Korea is just a small fry. It's better to concentrate on dealing with the source.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

one time America owned the china, Korea and many other countries but at that time china think we will take victory and now you are seeing china is the super power

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Nothing that Japan will do will satisfy the koreans. Obama should mention that there is more to be had with Korea being friendly and acknowledging the many official apologies and reparations and the US blood shed for Korean freedom and then ask Park what her father did during World War II. If Korea wants to jump into bed with China and ignore that China invaded Korea in the 1950s then so be it, get the US troops out of Korea let them deal with the north and China on their own. The US has lots of allies in the region, chief among them Japan. We can box China in without Korea.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Obama originally only wanted to stay one night, but Abe asked him to allow Japan to shower him with exceptional honors and that would require 2 to 3 days. Japan's intention here is quite clear. It wants to hold on the dear daddy.

But asking Obama to denounce China or swear on defending Japan will most likely only annoy Obama, and adds to his already big headache. He will increasingly see Japan as "trouble maker", not being helpful as an ally (aka puppet) should.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

There's nothing USA has that Japan can hold onto now.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Do any of you really feel Japan is an alley with the U.S. and what it stood for? When you are out and about, do you feel that in the air? In the atmosphere? I see a few foreigner in Shibuya now and then. A see a few interracial couples. But I don't feel it. Maybe they don't like me, and only me. Money doesn't make a country an alley. Its the people. Its the soul and spirit. Its the bridges that were built on blood. There is a sense of human universality, not restricted to culture, race, or fashion style. All these things will burn away and turn to ashes. its 2014. still so much racism and discrimination. still so much hate for people of difference. not referring to homosexuality.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

America is increasingly becoming irrelevant... S.Korea is siding with China more now. Japan is still holding onto US, even though it is sinking away. The US does not treat Japan as an ally, it treats one as a lackey or a servant. "I don't care what you have to say, you will do what you are told" is America's motto. Japan thinks that it is fine as long as it's protected by the US. How mistaken they are... when America is taking down the entire "free world" with them. America, Europe, it's gone. It's finished. Here comes China.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Eiji TakanoFeb. 14, 2014 - 11:11PM JST America is increasingly becoming irrelevant... S.Korea is siding with China more now. Japan is still holding onto US, >even though it is sinking away. The US does not treat Japan as an ally, it treats one as a lackey or a servant. "I don't >care what you have to say, you will do what you are told" is America's motto. Japan thinks that it is fine as long as it's >protected by the US. How mistaken they are... when America is taking down the entire "free world" with them. >America, Europe, it's gone. It's finished. Here comes China.

We've reached a point where the resident Chinese trolls don't even pretend to discuss the article anymore. They just spout off Chinese propaganda. JT really needs to rethink it's moderation policies to keep up with he times.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Notice, no state visit to Japan. That's what you get when you ignore the VIce President telling you to no go to Yasukuni.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Obama has good intention but can he achieve his goal of easing tensions in Easts China sea region by preaching peace between all sides instead of concentrating on promises he made earlier in regards to this conflict.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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