Obama's Southeast Asia visit to push forward Asia pivot policy

Washington, Nov 16 (IANS) US President Barack Obama's visit to Southeast Asia, beginning Nov 17, is aimed at pushing forward the Pivot to Asia policy by increasing political, economic and security engagement with the strategically vital region, White House officials said.

Briefing reporters Thursday on Obama's visit to Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia from Nov 17 to Nov 20, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes said a critical part of Obama's second term agenda is "continuing to fill in our pivot to Asia", which will be ultimately his foreign policy legacy, reported Xinhua.

"We see this as an opportunity to dramatically increase US exports, to increase US leadership in the fastest growing part of the world," Rhodes said.

He noted that Obama has "made it a critical part of his foreign policy to refocus on the Asia Pacific as one of the most important regions to the future of the United States, both economically and in terms of our political and security objectives in the world".

"We devoted an extraordinary amount of time in the first term of the administration to refocusing on Asia and increasing our presence in Asia, both economically, politically, and through our security relationships," he said.

Obama will leave Saturday for Thailand for the Asia trip, the first foreign tour since his re−election victory last week. In Thailand, Obama will hold talks with Thai King Bhumibol Abdulyadej and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

On Nov 19, Obama will pay a visit to Myanmar, the first by a US president. He is scheduled to deliver a speech at the University of Rangoon about bilateral relations.

On the last leg of his tour, Obama will visit Cambodia, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Obama will also attend a summit meeting at Phnom Penh with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the East Asia Summit.

He is also expected to hold a series of bilateral meetings with Asian leaders on the sidelines of the summits, including Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.

National Security Council's senior director for Asia Danny Russel said the US and ASEAN will try to expand economic and trade engagement, and push forward practical programmes in terms of education and people−to−people ties.

At the East Asia Summit, Obama is expected to focus on issues of non−proliferation, humanitarian assistance and disaster response, and food and energy security.

Since last fall, the Obama administration has been implementing the so−called Pivot to Asia policy by expanding and intensifying its political, diplomatic and military involvement in the Asia−Pacific region.

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