KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) – US President Barack Obama said Sunday that foreign policy crises elsewhere and domestic political strife would not distract America’s attention from a rising Asia.
The president, who has seen his current regional tour interrupted by the deepening East-West showdown over Ukraine, said the Asia-Pacific’s growing importance was such that Washington could not afford to ignore it.
“America has responsibilities all around the world and we are glad to embrace those responsibilities,” Obama said.
“And sometimes, we have a political system of our own and it can be easy to lose sight of the long view.
“But we have been moving forward on our rebalance to this part of the world,” Obama said at a town hall meeting with young leaders from Southeast Asia in Malaysia.
Obama said his administration was deepening commercial, defense and other partnerships with Asian nations, and especially those in Southeast Asia.
Before he left for the region, some foreign policy experts in Washington and elsewhere suggested Obama needed to do more to explain his strategy of redeploying US resources to Asia.
Doubts about US commitment and endurance have been exacerbated by national security crises in Europe and the Middle East.
Questions were also asked when Obama was forced to cancel a previous Asia trip late last year owing to a government shutdown brought about by a budget imbroglio between Democrats and Republicans.
Malaysia is the third stop on an Asian tour by Obama that has taken him to Japan and South Korea. He heads to the Philippines on Monday.