Obama puts Asia on his agenda. Will it make a difference?
Obama holds meetings with Asian leaders at UN on economic and security issues. But some analysts say he is doing no better than his predecessors at resolving the region's challenges.
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Wen said that “our common interests far outweigh our differences” – a theme Chinese leaders emphasized when they met with senior US officials in Beijing earlier this week. China has been irritated by a number of US actions in recent months – US military exercises with South Korea off the Chinese coast, and US contacts with the Dalai Lama – but Wen said he was confident any “differences “ could be “well-resolved through dialogue and cooperation.”Skip to next paragraph
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Obama appeared to be motivated by domestic political ramifications in pursuing the currency issue at such length. Jeffrey Bader, the National Security Council’s senior director for Asia, told reporters after the meeting that the two leaders discussed “the impact and politics” of the issue.
“Whether this lengthy discussion of currency issues reflects Obama’s Congressional and electoral concerns is unclear,” says Mr. Klingner. “But it clearly is a big issue in US-China relations.”
The ASEAN summit – the second formal meeting between the US and Southeast Asian countries – is seen as an important step towards institutionalized dialogue between the two. But the fact the meeting did not include the president of Indonesia, the organization’s largest member, is also a reminder of the distance to go to make the contact an integral part of US multilateral diplomacy.
Indonesian officials have said their president, Susilio Bambang Yudoyono, was constrained by domestic affairs from making the trip to New York. But probably the more crucial factor is Indonesia’s pique at having seen Obama postpone travel to the country (where he spent a portion of his childhood) no less than three times, some Asia analysts say.
The Southeast Asian countries are looking to the US for a shoulder to lean upon as some of them face territorial disputes with China, in particular in the South China Sea. Obama took up another territorial row in the region – this one pitting Japan against China – when he met with Japanese Prime Minister Kan on Thursday. Tensions between China and Japan have risen over a collision earlier this month between a Chinese fishing boat and Japanese naval ships off the coast of uninhabited islands claimed by both countries.
Klinger says China is dredging up old grievances to employ assertive tactics and demonstrate its rising power, but he says the approach is backfiring because it is only making China’s neighbors more wary and turning them towards the US.