Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 06:42 | SYDNEY
Thursday 14 Oct 2021 | 06:42 | SYDNEY

Where in Asia will Obama go?


Malcolm Cook

26 February 2009 13:05

The President of the United States is likely the busiest and most in demand person in the world. When it comes to US participation in Asian regional bodies, this problem of minimal supply (one leader) and almost unlimited demand has led to the well-known scheduling limitation that US presidents only have space in their insane diaries for one guaranteed trip to Asia a year.

The APEC leaders’ summit, when it meets in Asia, has long been the only candidate for this guaranteed spot. (APEC 1998 in Kuala Lumpur was an exception, when Vice-President Al Gore came instead of President Clinton, who was preoccupied by Iraq; Gore annoyed his hosts by delving into Malaysia’s charged domestic politics.) 

2010 could pose a more serious and long-term challenge to this scheduling limitation of one and only one guaranteed visit a year. If the US does go through with signing the ASEAN Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, President Obama could well be in line for an invitation to the East Asia Summit in 2010 in Vietnam, an invitation that would be hard to refuse or to delegate to the Secretary of State.

Yet, the US is also hosting APEC in 2011 so it would be undiplomatic, to say the least, if President Obama did not attend APEC 2010 in Japan. To make matters even more complicated, South Korea will host the G20 in 2010, and may want to host the third leaders’ meeting of the G20 if this global organisation stays at the leaders’ level after the second leaders’ meeting in London this April. 

Photo by Flickr user showbizsuperstar, used under a Creative Commons license.