WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama scrapped trips to two key Asian summits on Thursday, blaming the US government shutdown for the cancelation of a tour designed to advance a central prong of his foreign policy.
After days of speculation that the trip was in jeopardy following the shutdown crisis, a White House statement late Thursday confirmed Obama would miss the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei next week.
The president had already cancelled plans to visit Malaysia and the Philippines, but had delayed taking a decision on the summit meetings, both seen as an opportunity to push important foreign policy initiatives in the region.
"Due to the government shutdown, President Obama's travel to Indonesia and Brunei has been cancelled," the White House statement said.
"The President made this decision based on the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown, and his determination to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government."
The White House said Obama had called Indonesia President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to inform him of the cancelation.
"He expressed his regret that the ongoing government shutdown in the United States will prevent him from attending the Summit," the statement said.
Obama had also called the Sultan of Brunei, the White House said.
Secretary of State John Kerry would lead the US delegations to both countries in place of Obama, the statement said, before rounding on Republicans for causing a "completely avoidable shutdown."
"The cancelation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government," the White House statement said.