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During President Obama’s first term as commander in chief, his administration signaled a new priority in America’s foreign policy, the so-called Asia pivot. But three years of multiple crises on other continents, and at home, have distracted the administration from that goal.
Starting in China, the president hopes to change that this week.
Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner explains.
The president arrived in the heart of the world’s fastest rising power this morning fresh from a drubbing in last week’s elections. His stop in Beijing begins a week-long trip that will include Myanmar and Australia, as he seeks to boost U.S. influence in a region where China enjoys growing clout.
His focus today was on commercial ties at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, or APEC.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA:
Over the next five years, nearly half of all economic growth outside the United States is projected to come from right here in Asia. That makes this region an incredible opportunity for creating jobs and economic growth in the United States. And any serious leader in America, whether in politics or in commerce, recognizes that fact.
Yet, earlier, at the U.S. Embassy, he hosted leaders of 11 countries that are working to put together a Trans-Pacific trade partnership, or TPP, that pointedly excludes China. At APEC, he had sought to reassure Beijing that the U.S. wasn’t trying to hem China in.
We welcome the rise of a prosperous, peaceful and stable China, not only because it’s in China’s best interest, but because it’s in America’s best interest and the world’s best interest. We want China to do well.
Obama will have extended talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping tomorrow and Wednesday. And, today, the two countries announced they’d grant each other’s citizens visas valid for 10 years.
But other concerns shadow the trip, including China’s territorial assertiveness against its neighbors in the East and South China seas. President Xi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did meet today in what was billed as a first step to ease tensions. But their public handshake was noticeably tense.
Also of concern to Washington, Chinese cyber-security attacks on U.S. companies and China’s crackdown on human rights, including how it will ultimately respond to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Wednesday, Mr. Obama arrives in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. He will meet with President Thein Sein, whom he initially applauded for moving towards democratic reforms. But Washington is now concerned those reforms are backsliding and minority Muslims, journalists and opposition activists are being repressed. The president also will meet with opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who initially encouraged the warming of U.S.- Myanmar relations, but is now urging caution.
The president ends his trip in Australia at a G20 summit.