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Obama to skip Asia summits to deal with budget impasse

– President Barack Obama has canceled the rest of his week-long trip to Asia, pulling out of two regional summits to remain in Washington to try to break a budget impasse in Congress that has shut down the federal government, the White House said Thursday.

Obama “made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown,” press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. The shutdown “is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world.”

The president was scheduled to leave today for a four-country tour of Southeast Asia, with stops in Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines. Obama earlier scrapped plans to visit the latter two because of reduced staffing that was due to the shutdown.

He had hoped to keep his commitments to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Brunei, where world leaders will gather next week.

Obama administration officials view Asia as a fast-growing region where the United States is competing for influence with China. Chinese President Xi Jinping is visiting Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei, and Russian President Vladimir Putin also will attend APEC.

Some media reported that Obama and Putin had hoped to meet during that summit, at a time when the two countries have sparred over Russia’s protection of U.S. security leaker Edward Snowden and are working toward a resolution of Syria’s chemical weapons program.

Analysts said canceling the trip would deal a blow to the Obama administration’s attempt to refocus its foreign policy priorities toward Asia. Obama had committed to attending the summits every year. The White House said Secretary of State John Kerry would lead a delegation to the countries in the president’s stead.

“The bottom line is his reputation will take a hit, especially in Southeast Asia,” said Michael Green, a former Asian affairs director under former president George W. Bush who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Some real opportunities in Southeast Asia will be lost,” Green said. “The Chinese will probably quietly say that the Americans do not have staying power.”

White House aides had held out hope that the budget impasse would be resolved before the weekend and the government reopened. But after Obama’s meeting with congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday failed to produce a breakthrough, the administration began to signal that it would be unlikely the president would leave town with the situation unresolved.

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