April 21 - U.S. President Barack Obama seeks to strengthen ties with Asian allies and reinforce the U.S. 'pivot' towards Asia, as he visits the region. Deborah Lutterbeck reports.
U.S. President Barack Obama's begins a four-nation tour of Asia on Wednesday. Analysts say his toughest challenge will be to reassure skeptical leaders that the U.S. intends to be more than just a casual observer; that it's genuinely committed to countering an increasingly assertive China in the region. Dr. Jonathan Pollack of the Brookings Institution. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JONATHAN POLLACK, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE, SAYING: "The fundamental goals are ones of, if you will, assuring different states of the credibility of U.S. policy, the determination, despite events in the Middle East, and despite events in Central Europe, that the United States means what it says in terms of a redirection to Asia and the Pacific. But at the same time, he's got to very candidly talk to allies about very specific issues where either the US is not in firm agreement with allies or where allies are having big differences between themselves." The trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, but China will be very much in focus. (SOUNDBITE) (English) DR. JONATHAN POLLACK, FOREIGN POLICY ANALYST, BROOKINGS INSTITUTE, SAYING: "China is, if you will, the elephant in the room on this trip. He's not going to China, but one way or another, concerns about the rise of Chinese power and how it's perceived by others around the region, will be on everyone's mind, including President Obama's." When a Philippine ship evaded a Chinese blockade in disputed waters last month, a U.S. Navy plane swooped in to witness the dramatic encounter. The flyover underscores a message that senior officials say Obama will make in Asia this week, that the so-called "pivot" toward Asia is very real.