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2010-11-01 | Obama’s Trip Underscores Asia’s Importance

Obama’s Trip Underscores Asia’s Importance

01 November 2010
President Obama will visit India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan November 6–14. (Photo: AP Image)

President Obama will visit India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan November 6–14. (Photo: AP Image)

By Stephen Kaufman
Staff Writer

Washington - Senior White House officials say President Obama's nine-day visit to India, Indonesia, South Korea and Japan is aimed at renewing U.S. engagement across Asia through established alliances and deepening partnerships with emerging powers.

The president's November 6-14 visit includes meetings of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Seoul and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in Yokohama.

In a White House briefing October 28, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said Obama's visit to the four countries "sends a strong signal of the ability of democracy to thrive within Asia and the ability of robust economic development to take place within emerging democracies as well as established ones."

The rise of economic growth in Asia "is one of the defining stories of our time," and the region will be a major focus for U.S. exports and job-creation efforts in the future, Rhodes said.

Asia is at the center of U.S. foreign policy because it's fundamental to the economic prosperity of Americans through the need to balance global growth through U.S. exports, and it's fundamental to U.S. security in terms of curbing the spread of nuclear weapons and terrorism, Rhodes said.

The president's meetings with the G20 and APEC also reflect his stress on the value of multilateral institutions in the region and as a central component of U.S. foreign policymaking, according to Jeff Bader, the White House senior director for Asian affairs.

Obama's visit to Indonesia has been eagerly anticipated because he lived there as a child. Bader said although Obama's experience there "makes him an enormously popular figure in Indonesia," the country also has been of growing importance to his administration. Indonesia's population makes it the largest Muslim-majority country and democracy in the world. The country is also now a member of the G20 and is "the most important country" in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), he said.

While in Jakarta, the president plans to announce increased U.S. educational assistance to Indonesia, as well as a substantial five-year program to cooperate against climate change, Bader said.

Rhodes said Obama will also deliver a speech to the Indonesian people to discuss their partnership with the United States, U.S. outreach to Muslim communities around the world, and Indonesia's pluralism and tolerance.

During his trip, Obama will hold one-on-one meetings with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Bader said the president and the Chinese leader will "undoubtedly talk about economic issues," such as the recovery from the global financial crisis, trade and intellectual property rights. He also said security and political topics like Iran, North Korea, Sudan and human rights will likely be part of the meeting agenda.

"We're seeking the mantra of a positive, cooperative, constructive relationship," Bader said.

The United States also wants to assure that China's rise contributes to rather than detracts from Asian stability, and the president's meetings with other Asian leaders will help to strengthen their relationships with the United States and promote the goal of regional stability, Bader said.