Saturday, November 19, 2011

Obama’s Trip Emphasizes Role of Pacific Rim

President Obama discussed maritime security, nuclear nonproliferation and disaster aid at an Asian summit meeting on Friday, but just his presence on this resort island telegraphed his main message: that the United States is turning its focus to the booming Asia-Pacific region after a decade of preoccupation with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Calling the region critical to economic growth and national security, he said, “I want everyone to know from the outset, my administration is committed to strengthening our ties with each country individually but also with the region’s institutions.”

The American focus on Asia has been raising tensions with an ever more powerful China, which has been increasingly assertive in the region. On Saturday morning Mr. Obama held a previously unscheduled meeting with Prime Minister Wen Jiabao of China. Administration officials said Mr. Obama and Mr. Wen talked briefly on Friday night at a dinner for the gathered leaders and agreed to meet the next morning. Earlier on Friday, Mr. Wen had pushed back against the United States, saying that “outside forces should not, under any pretext” interfere in a regional fight over the control of the South China Sea.