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Obama Cancels Most of His Asia Trip

Posted: 02 Oct 2013 11:21 AM PDT 

(Asia Sentinel) - The US together with its Japanese, Australian, Korean and other allies has its own strategic reasons for countering China's claim to the whole sea. But if China can in practice advance this little by little by seizing small but strategically located rocks and shoals off others' coasts it could gradually change what historically was a Malay sea into a Chinese lake.

The antics of Republican US Congressmen have led to the cancellation of almost all of President Barack Obama's trip to Southeast Asia, although his schedule is still in doubt over the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) conference to be held next week. 

The US domestic political crisis may well lead to the cancellation of that visit as well. Unless there is some resolution of the US budget issue, it is unlikely that anybody in Southeast Asia will see the US chief executive anytime soon although aborting the trip risks telling America's East Asia allies that there are risks of a diminished US commitment despite the administration's much-discussed "Asia pivot." .

Americans need to worry about how these congressmen are demeaning the nation in the eyes of the world. 

Filipinos on the other hand will be worried about the impact of a failure to come to an area to which Obama has attached so much importance just at the time China is stroking the soft underbelly of Asean in an attempt to isolate the Philippines.

In essence, China is pursuing an overtly aggressive attitude to Manila while engaging in sweet talk with other concerned Asean members. Beijing's effective seizure of the Scarborough Shoal last year with the stationing of coast guard as well as fishing vessels there has been followed, says the Philippines, by the dumping of concrete blocks which appear to be the precursor of construction. China has responded with a somewhat ambiguous denial of this claim while attacking Manila for allegedly creating obstacles to negotiating a Code of Conduct between the South China Sea claimants.

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