Obama's stops in India and Indonesia balanced security with economic pressures. But back-to-back global summits in Japan and South Korea underscored the administration’s weaker hand with China.
Charles Dharapak/AP Photo
Like many sporting contests, President Obama’s just-concluded four-nation Asian tour was a game of two halves.
Stops in India and Indonesia were charm offensives that yielded goodwill, commercial deals, and progress on security cooperation. But the latter half of the trip – back-to-back global summits in Japan and South Korea – ran into strong economic headwinds that underscored the administration’s weaker hand in a region that’s increasingly bound to China, its largest economy. A stalled trade treaty in South Korea also proved a major disappointment.
Many observers noted that China was the "elephant in the room" on Obama’s tour, conspicuous by its absence from his schedule. While Obama was keen to push a broad agenda on his stops, there was a strong emphasis on security ties, which chimes with rising suspicions in the region over Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea.
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