Obama's no show in Asia "a golden opportunity for Xi'

Obama's no show in Asia "a golden opportunity for Xi'

United States President Barack Obama's last-minute cancellation of his South-east Asian trip has gifted China with an opportunity to improve its influence and even repair damaged ties in the region, say analysts.

Mr Obama's no-show - to deal with a government shutdown triggered by a budget impasse - will deepen concerns over the US' financial woes and get ASEAN countries thinking harder about Washington's ability to fulfil its strategic commitments, they add.

Singapore-based analyst Ian Storey says that while ASEAN leaders understand why the US leader had to cancel his trip to Asia, they will "still be disappointed".

Mr Obama cancelled visits to the Philippines and Malaysia and will be represented by Secretary of State John Kerry at the three- day Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) summit in Bali beginning today and the East Asia Summit in Brunei next week.

"Mr Obama's no-show will, however, reinforce concerns in South-east Asia that political in-fighting in Washington could prolong, or even worsen, America's economic difficulties and thus stall its pivot towards Asia," Dr Storey said.

The US' rebalancing efforts are seen as a counterweight to China's growing stature and assertiveness, especially over the South China Sea disputes which have soured Beijing's ties with ASEAN claimant-states like Vietnam and the Philippines.

While Mr Obama is being kept busy back home, China's President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang are on a charm offensive in the region.

After his trips to Indonesia and Malaysia, Mr Xi will attend the Apec summit. Mr Li, who will be visiting Thailand and Vietnam, will also attend the East Asia Summit in Brunei.

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