Barack Obama win to sustain Asia pivot as wars fade and post-US election reality sets in


President Barack Obama's re-election in 2012 means he can sustain the strategic shift toward the Asia-Pacific started during his first term but the attention and resources the region gets may be hostage to instability in the Middle East and budget battles in Washington.

Obama is slated to attend a summit of East Asian leaders in Cambodia this month, underscoring his commitment to the region. He could also make a side-trip to Myanmar, becoming the first US president to visit that military-dominated country to reward its democratic reforms.

Many Asian governments are likely to welcome Obama's victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney. Concerned about China's rising power and assertive behavior, they have supported the Obama administration's "pivot" to the region as the US disentangles from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Still, they also want the US to get along with China, the hub of the Asian economy. Romney's more confrontational stance, based on his threat to designate China as a currency manipulator, could have set back US-China relations and even sparked a trade war.

Romney's defeat will be greeted with quiet relief in Beijing, which wants stability in its most critical bilateral relationship as it undergoes its own leadership transition that kicks off at a Communist Party Congress on Thursday.

Whether Asia policy gets the kind of attention from the US as during the first term will depend partly on who succeeds Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. She has made at least a dozen trips to the region and championed the view that US interests lie in more ties with that booming continent. Her hard-charging top diplomat for East Asia, Kurt Campbell, is also expected to move on.

The agenda of the next secretary of state, who is yet to be named, could be at the mercy of events.

... contd.

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