— By Domani Spero
The cancellation of President Obama’s trip to Asia lent to hyperventilating descriptions about the president’s “Asia Pivot” — “falters,” “in shambles,” “goes pffft,” “in jeopardy” and such.
Well, frankly, not sure where that is going. But we could certainly imagine the political hay that would have been expended over POTUS trip to Asia during a government shutdown.
In any case, Secretary Kerry took the trip instead.
Dear Congress, this is what happened to America in Bali, Indonesia.
So you’re not allowed to make fun of that shirt or any other shirts, kapish?
We actually think that purple batik suits him well. Had they asked him to put on a gray one, he would have worn it too, even if he would have looked wash out in it. Because he’s our top diplomat. Yes, diplomats are known to wear (and eat) things that their compatriots often find strange or weird. (See Round-Up: Headgears in the Foreign Service).
These are way tamer in comparison to what President Bush had to wear during his tenure.
Anyhow, we understand that Australia continues to host annual six-month training deployments of US Marines to its base in the Northern Territory. Australia’s Courier News reports today that Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised the necessary infrastructure will be put in place to accommodate the expected presence of a 1000 U.S. Marines set to train there next year. The government is preparing to construct additional accommodations at two bases in Darwin.
So there’s that.
Then we heard that we are helping the Philippines develop Oyster Bay, a postcard-perfect cove on Palawan Island into a port for naval frigates and eventually for American warships? All, of course, overlooking the disputed South China Sea. But given all that’s happening in Washington, D.C….
No wonder Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin celebrated the later’s 61st birthday “quaffing vodka and wolfing down cake”:
“It was 11:00 pm. I offered our Chinese friends to raise a shot of vodka,” Mr Putin said, according to Russian state news agency ITAR-TASS.
“They did not refuse, so we did just that.” As for the cake: “We wolfed it down successfully”. Needless to say, Mr Putin described his meeting with Mr Xi as “very warm” and “friendly”.
We can’t say if Secretary Kerry was in attendance for that “quaffing” and “wolfing” event.
Meanwhile, back in Foggy Bottom: The East Asia Pacific bureau has six deputy assistant secretaries, twice as many as in 2004, and a deputy assistant secretary-level U.S. senior official for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. State/OIG reports that “the bureau needs to streamline front office staffing” — top heavy structure for the second smallest regional bureau in the house needs fixing. Why? Because as in other bureaus, “the proliferation of DASes has diminished the role of office directors and reduced responsibility at every level.” Also this:
The administration’s rebalance toward Asia has not been matched by additional financial or human resources. A Congressional Research Service memorandum notes that “[new] initiatives have not, however, been accompanied by a significant increase in the State Department or USAID’s programmatic resources devoted to East Asia.” Foreign assistance to the region in FY 2013 is 19 percent below the FY 2010 peak. U.S. military resources for the region have increased, but sequestration may impact future plans.
Folks, somewhere, some heads of state are laughing their heads off.
- Kerry: US will stay the course despite shutdown (news.yahoo.com)
- As Obama’s Asia ‘pivot’ falters, China steps into the gap (news.yahoo.com)
- John Kerry: U.S. commitment to Asia strong despite Obama’s absence (upi.com)
- William Bradley: The Shutdown Crew Takes a Big Bite Out of U.S. Geopolitics (huffingtonpost.com)
- Photos From Asia Show Obama’s Absence Left U.S. Demoted – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Kerry cancels stop in Philippines because of storm (miamiherald.com)
- US Secretary of State John Kerry to Visit Japan, Indonesia (thejakartaglobe.com)
- Kerry postpones visit to Philippines as typhoon approaches (reuters.com)
- Kerry presses China, neighbors on maritime issues (miamiherald.com)