Despite President Barack Obama's stated desire to turn his attention to the Pacific, he can't quite seem to shake a policy calendar that diverts his attention elsewhere.
Obama was supposed to visit the Philippines, Malaysia and also attend a meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in October, but decided at the last minute that the budget crisis at home was more important.
Asian nations, who have welcomed Obama's rhetoric and are now waiting for the results, felt the absence.
"It was unfortunate that the president couldn't make it to Asia this summer," said Shigeo Yamada, the political minister at Japan's embassy to the U.S. "Especially in Asia, showing up means a lot."
"We really hope that the U.S. will be able to show its presence physically by sending the president some time in the near future to the region," said Yamada, while speaking at the Foreign Policy Initiative Forum in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who did attend the ASEAN meetings, said from Malaysia on Oct. 10 that Obama was "very disappointed to cancel his visit, especially given his personal connection and commitment to the region." Kerry himself delayed his planned visit to the Philippines on that trip due to extreme weather.
A State Department official traveling with the secretary told reporters these kinds of cancellations do not cause long-term harm to U.S. relations with its allies.
"Will Philippines surrender to China now that Secretary Kerry postponed his trip by a few months? No," the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "The Philippines, at the risk of speaking for a sovereign country, has full faith in our alliance, and I cannot imagine a scenario in which this scheduling matter alters their strategic view."