WASHINGTON - President Obama canceled a long-planned trip to attend economic and security summits in Southeast Asia because of the government shutdown, the White House said Thursday night, the latest casualty of the political impasse in Washington.
The president was scheduled to leave Saturday for Indonesia and Brunei for a series of summits with other world leaders, diplomacy he has prioritized as part of his attempt to "pivot" economic and military resources to the western Pacific region.
Obama already had decided to shorten what was originally planned as a four-country trip. The White House this week canceled his visits to Malaysia and the Philippines as he focused attention on the bruising budget battle with House Republicans that has brought much of the federal government to a halt since Tuesday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the president was forced to scrub the trip because House Republicans had refused to pass a continuing resolution to fully fund government operations.
"The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government," Carney said in a statement. "This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world."
Carney said Secretary of State John F. Kerry would attend the summits in place of the president.
Obama telephoned Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Hassanal Bolkiah, the Sultan of Brunei, on Thursday night to inform them that he had changed his plans. He told both leaders he would look for an opportunity to visit at a later date, the White House said.
Indonesia is hosting the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, a key grouping that focuses on regional economic issues. The White House has said the summit is crucial to boosting U.S. trade and influence in the region.
Brunei is hosting the East Asia Summit, which focuses more on regional security concerns. The U.S. keeps a close eye on territorial disputes with China's growing military in the South China Sea.
Despite his promises to focus more U.S. resources on Asia, Obama has struggled to keep his attention on the region.
In 2010, a vote on the healthcare law and later the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico prompted him to cancel trips to Indonesia and Australia. Last year, a stop in Cambodia was overshadowed by fighting in the Gaza Strip.
And last week, during his annual address to the United Nations General Assembly, Obama focused almost exclusively on Iran, Syria and other hot spots.
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