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Political Crisis Keeps Obama From Asia-Pacific Summit


Leaders of Asia-Pacific countries are wrapping up a major economic summit today in Indonesia. And as NPR's Frank Langfitt reports, much of the talk there focused not on trade or business, but on the event's big no show - President Obama.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: U.S. allies were looking forward to seeing the president at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation meeting on the island of Bali. Particularly to gauge America's resolve to counterbalance a rising China. But Mr. Obama's decision to cancel the trip because of the government shutdown left some officials here deeply disappointed.

HUANG JING: This is disaster for United States of America.

LANGFITT: Huang Jing teaches political science at the National University of Singapore. He says Mr. Obama's absence only raises more questions.

JING: People would begin to wonder if United States really has the capability, and the commitment, to this important region.

LANGFITT: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry came in Mr. Obama's place. He defended the president's decision to stay home to deal with a political crisis, and said it was no reflection on the United State's pledge to rebalance or refocus its foreign policy on this crucial part of the world.

SECRETARY JOHN KERRY: Nothing will diminish our commitment to Asia, the rebalance that President Obama is engaged in.

LANGFITT: Secretary Kerry also said the president's political opponents back home need to think beyond the Beltway.

KERRY: ...about the message that we send to the world when we can't get our own act together.

LANGFITT: Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Shanghai. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Frank Langfitt is NPR's London correspondent. He covers the UK and Ireland, as well as stories elsewhere in Europe.