U.S. gov't shutdown affects key diplomacy on Asia

By Lee Chi-dong

WASHINGTON, Oct. 2 (Yonhap) -- A U.S. government shutdown is already taking a toll on the Barack Obama administration's diplomacy, notably its signature strategy of rebalancing towards Asia.

Obama indefinitely postponed his trip to the Philippines and Malaysia, two major Southeast Asian nations.

"Due to the government shut-down, President Obama's travel to Malaysia and the Philippines has been postponed," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Wednesday in a statement. "Logistically, it was not possible to go ahead with these trips in the face of a government shut-down."

The president still plans to attend the APEC summit in Indonesia and the annual meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Brunei.

But it remains uncertain whether he will be able to leave for the region on Saturday as scheduled.

The White House said it would depend on "how events develop throughout the course of the week" with regard to the shutdown, now in its second day.

Concerns are growing that it may be prolonged amid no signs of an end to a budget row.

On behalf of Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry will lead the U.S. delegation to Malaysia and the Philippines in mid-October. The secretary is visiting Tokyo for the so-called two-plus-two talks to be joined by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel.

The last session was held in June 2011 in Washington.

"The meeting represents the next step in further strengthening the U.S.-Japan alliance, providing an opportunity to build on our already broad and comprehensive bilateral relationship," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a news release.

On Friday, Kerry will head to Bali, Indonesia, for the APEC Ministerial Meeting.

APEC is the premier forum for facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade, and investment in the Asia-Pacific region. Promoting trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific remains a key component of the U.S. rebalance policy, said Psaki.

The Obama administration has been stepping up efforts to improve relations with Southeast Asian nations amid the pivot toward the Asia-Pacific region after a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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