The question of U.S. engagement in the region has been raised a lot lately of Obama, a Hawaii native who considers himself America's first Pacific president. He promised during his first term that he would oversee a U.S. "pivot to Asia," a realignment of strategic and diplomatic interests to focus on the continent.
But the sting of the no-show has lingered over the president's trip through China, Myanmar and Australia this week. At every stop, he has insisted in private conversations with leaders that the renewed focus on Asia and Australia is real.
The idea was at the heart of his opening message upon arrival in Brisbane for a summit of the world's leading economies, the Group of 20.
It's true that pressing events have demanded U.S. attention, he said, and as the world's superpower, the nation is obligated to focus on them.
But he said the U.S. would emphasize deterring the North Korean nuclear threat and promoting economic growth throughout Southeast Asia. The U.S. will be a partner in fighting the flow of foreign militants, countering terrorism and promoting compliance with international law in the South China Sea, he said.