US president due in Asia to confirm strategic shift
Newly re-elected US president Barack Obama is due to embark on a four-day, three-nation tour of southeast Asia on Saturday (17 November). While the tour is built around the 21st summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and related summits held in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh on 15-20 November, Obama's trip to former pariah state Myanmar is considered as the "main event".
In Cambodia, Obama will attend the high-profile 7th East Asia summit, which will gather the 10 ASEAN heads of state and governments and regional and global leaders, such as Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, Japanese prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, Australian prime minister Julia Gillard, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh, and Russian president Vladimir Putin. Obama's historic visit the first ever by a sitting US president to Cambodia has raised the stakes for the Phnom Penh government to deliver successful summits. As Cambodia gets ready to hold the summits, it should also prepare for international condemnation. Instead of applause, the United States is expected to raise serious concerns over human-rights abuses and steps taken by Cambodia against the opposition.
Although the Thai visit is not as high profile as the one to Myanmar or Cambodia, it is equally "historic", marking the 180th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. During the visit, Obama will hold talks with Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. Economic issues such as trade and investment as well as security co-operation are expected to figure high on the agenda.
On the security side, the talks are likely to focus on enhanced defence co-operation and in particular the annual Cobra Gold US-Thai military exercise, which next year for the first time will mean Myanmar participates as an observer in the humanitarian assistance and disaster response exercises.
On his one-day visit to Myanmar next Monday (19 November), on which he will be accompanied by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama will hold talks with President Thein Sein and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. That Obama has chosen to include Myanmar on the first foreign tour of his second term is highly significant.351 of 1228 words
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