ABC News’ Yunji de Nies reports:
When President Obama heads to Asia later this week, he goes with a wide-ranging agenda. White House officials said today the administration hopes to reach common ground with a number leaders on strengthening alliances, trade, the war in Afghanistan, nuclear non-proliferation, how to deal with Iran and North Korea, and energy/climate issues.
The president will visit Japan, Singapore, China and South Korea. He’ll meet with the leaders of all four nations, and several others as he attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) and becomes the first U.S. president to hold a multi-lateral meeting with all 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
“The overarching theme is that America is a Pacific nation, it understands the importance of Asia in the 21st century, and it's going to be very engaged in a very comprehensive way to make progress on a whole series of issues that are critical for our prosperity and our security,” Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, told reporters.
The trip is Obama’s first to the region as president and is particularly important when it comes to trade.
“Right now, 1.6 million jobs in the United States are associated with exports to Asia. And as the Asian region grows, we could see hundreds of thousands of more jobs being created there as well,” said Jeffrey Bader, National Security Council Senior Director for East Asian Affairs.
The president leaves on Thursday and will stop in Alaska to meet briefly with troops at Elmendorf Air Force Base, before arriving in Tokyo on Friday. There, he is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Hatoyama, before the two hold a joint press conference.
The next day, the president plans to deliver a speech, in which Rhodes says Obama will “discuss his view of American engagement in Asia as it relates to the political, security and economic dimensions, and to also reaffirm the strength of the U.S.-Japanese alliance.” Before leaving Japan, the White House said, Obama will also meet with the emperor and empress.
Obama then heads to Singapore, where his agenda includes a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the APEC summit. At APEC, the White House says the President will follow up on commitments made at the G20 Summit in Pittsburgh, and further promote growth in the Asia Pacific region.
“This is the fastest-growing region in the world. It's expected to grow by over 7 percent next year,” Bader said. “It already takes about a quarter of our exports, and those exports are expected to increase as the region grows and as they pursue balanced growth as the region becomes more open to our exports. And so we see a lot of jobs being created through our engagement in Asia.”
Obama also has scheduled separate bilateral meetings with the presidents of Russia and Indonesia, before leaving Singapore to start the week in China.
The president first stops in Shanghai, where he’ll meet the mayor and host a town-hall style meeting with Chinese youth, the White House said. The details of the event are still being worked out, but the president plans to take questions from the audience.
“He certainly looks forward to this opportunity and felt that it was important given the deepening engagement not just between the U.S. and Chinese governments, but really among the American and Chinese people, that he take an opportunity, as he has in other countries, to engage young people in a dialogue about the future of this relationship,” Rhodes said.
Obama then moves on to Beijing, where he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao. After their meeting, the two leaders will hold a joint press conference. Administration officials expect the economy, nonproliferation, the Six Party talks, energy/climate issues and human rights (including Tibet) will all be discussed. China will also host a state dinner for the president’s visit.
The following day, Wednesday, will be the President’s last in China. He’ll meet with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, before leaving for South Korea.
In Seoul, the president will meet with President Lee Myung-Bak and the focus will again be wide ranging, though issues of trade, North Korea and Afghanistan are expected to be front and center.
“North Korea obviously will be a principal focus of this stop,” Rhodes said, “We'll be talking about how we reengage in the six-party process with the agenda of denuclearization and reaffirmation of previous commitments.”
The president will also visit U.S. troops stationed in South Korea before heading back to Washington on Thursday.