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NYT: Obama’s Strategic Shift to Asia Is Hobbled by Pressure at Home and Crises Abroad

Authors: David E. Sanger, and Mark Landler
April 21, 2014

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"The premise of Mr. Obama's strategy — that American power must follow its economic interests in a region where a growing middle class yearns for everything from iPhones to the new Ford Mustang — still makes sense, his advisers say. But they acknowledge that it faces acute challenges, which will demand a delicate balancing act."

WASHINGTON — President Obama is expected to announce an agreement with the Philippines next Monday that would give American ships and planes the most extensive access to bases there since the United States relinquished its vast naval installation at Subic Bay in 1992.

The deal, which will be the centerpiece of Mr. Obama's long-postponed trip to Asia that starts on Tuesday, is a modest step to reassert America's military presence in Asia. But it could nonetheless antagonize China, which has stepped up its claims in both the South and East China Seas and is enmeshed in a standoff with the Philippines over a disputed clump of rocks known as Scarborough Shoal.

For Mr. Obama, it is the latest example of the deepening complexities of his efforts to shore up the strategic shift to Asia he announced three years ago and has struggled to maintain because of political pressures at home and a cascade of crises elsewhere in the world.

At a moment when Asia appears more rattled by China's behavior than it has in decades, America's fractious allies question its repeated assurances that the United States will be there for them. But the more Mr. Obama repeats his commitments, the more he plays into China's narrative that his real motive is to contain its rise.

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