President Obama is visiting Asia this week amid high expectations but waning influence for the United States in the region.
The 10-day trip will focus on issues of trade and currency, climate, nuclear nonproliferation and the war in Afghanistan, among other topics. Obama will stop in Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea.
“I think it's a common perception in the region that U.S. influence has been on the decline in the last decade, while Chinese influence has been increasing,” said Michael Froman, deputy national security adviser to Obama. “One of the messages the president will be sending in his visit is that we are an Asia-Pacific nation and we are there for the long haul.”
The president's schedule includes two regional summits, a speech and a series of bilateral meetings with leaders including Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
But the central feature of the trip is Obama's first visit to China, and efforts to improve what has historically been a fraught relationship between the two countries.
Obama first met Hu in April in London, where the two agreed to pursue a “positive, cooperative and comprehensive” relationship, said Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow and Freeman chairwoman in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“This trip is an opportunity to really put some meat on the bones, if you will, of this statement; what is it that we are actually going to cooperate on? And in terms of comprehensiveness, how many things are we going to work on together?” Glaser said.