WASHINGTON President Barack Obama on Wednesday announced he will visit Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines in April, six months after a scrapped tour of the region raised questions about his commitment to an increasingly influential region of the world.
Obama is due to meet with the leaders of all four nations, and plans to address diplomatic, economic and security issues, the White House said. In early October he shelved plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines and attend regional summits in Indonesia and Brunei because of a U.S. government shutdown.
Political analysts said at the time that while the cancellation was understandable given events in the United States, it projected an unflattering image of the United States as politically and economically volatile and ceded the international stage to China.
Obama in 2012 declared a "pivot" to Asia, signaling that the United States would shift some of its focus from Europe and the Middle East to a region whose importance in world affairs has surged in the last decade. The United States hopes to build closer economic and military ties with Asian countries and keep pace with China's growing influence.
The U.S. leader postponed visits to Indonesia and Australia because of domestic politics and the Gulf of Mexico oil spill in 2010, and missed an Asia Pacific summit in Russia in 2012 because of the Democratic Party convention.
In Japan, Obama plans to discuss the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, among other issues, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the White House said. In South Korea, the president aims to speak about recent developments in North Korea with President Park Geun-hye, among other topics, the White House added.
(Reporting By Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)