Asia push to continue into second term, China a worry
President Barack Obama's re-election means he can sustain the strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific started during his first term but the attention and resources the region gets may be hostage to instability in West Asia and budget battles in Washington.india Updated: Nov 09, 2012 23:23 IST
President Barack Obama's re-election means he can sustain the strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific started during his first term but the attention and resources the region gets may be hostage to instability in West Asia and budget battles in Washington.
Obama is to attend a summit of east Asian leaders in Cambodia this month, underscoring his commitment to the region. He could also make a side-trip to Myanmar, becoming the first US president to visit that military-dominated country to reward its democratic reforms.
Many Asian governments are likely to welcome Obama's victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Concerned about China's rising power and assertive behaviour, they have supported the Obama administration's "pivot" to the region as the US disentangles from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Still, they also want the US to get along with China, the hub of the Asian economy.
Whether Asia policy gets the kind of attention from the US as during the first term will depend partly on who succeeds secretary of state Hillary Clinton. She has made at least a dozen trips to the region and championed the view that US interests lie in more ties with that booming continent.
The agenda of the next secretary of state could be at the mercy of events.
Walter Lohman, director of Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation think-tank, said China was the main long-term strategic threat for the US, but the most immediate foreign policy concern was Iran's nuclear programme. A conflict there would suck up resources and upset what the administration would want to achieve elsewhere, he said.
He must also reach a budget deal with Republicans to prevent a combination of automatic tax increases and steep spending cuts set to take effect January. That would entail nearly $500 billion in defence spending cuts over a decade that could undermine plans to devote more military assets to the Asia-Pacific.