China fills in US absense
Chinese President Xi Jinping held talks with Malaysia's leader yesterday as part of a Southeast Asian charm offensive, with analysts saying he had the floor to himself after Barack Obama scrapped his own Asia tour.
Xi's visits to Indonesia and Malaysia and his scheduled attendance at a regional summit next week have taken on added significance with the US president's decision to stay put due to the budget impasse in Washington.
Some Southeast Asian countries have accused Beijing of increasingly aggressive behaviour in asserting its claims to waters and islands in the South China Sea.
But Xi, addressing reporters after meeting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, said China was committed to closer cooperation with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Analysts said the developments in US is a potential blow to the Obama administration's "pivot" policy -- the refocusing of its economic and strategic attention on Asia.
Simon Tay, chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said Obama's decision "could signal the start of the unravelling of the US pivot to Asia".
Charles Morrison, president of the Honolulu-based East-West Center, told AFP the episode raised questions over whether the US "can sustain a leadership position".
"Obama's trip cancellation reduces the visibility of the American role in Asia," he said.