Obama to launch Asian diplomacy push

 US President Barack Obama, twice forced to cancel a trip to Asia this year, will launch a major diplomatic push on the region by meeting five key leaders at this weekend's G20 summit.

The White House said Obama would have meetings in Toronto with the leaders of India, China, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia, and five of his six bilateral encounters there will focus on Asia.

Aides said Obama wanted to make a statement about the importance with which he views US links with the dynamic region, ahead of a planned trip to India, South Korea and Japan in November.

"You'll note that five out of the six bilaterals mentioned are with Asia-Pacific countries," a senior administration official told reporters.

"That is, I think, an eloquent demonstration of the importance that the president attaches to Asia, the importance of Asia to our political security and economic interests.

"It's an area of rising influence globally."

A man holds a banner dipicting US President Barack Obama during a pro-Obama rally in Jakarta in March.

Obama, who will also attend a G8 summit in Canada, will discuss key global issues, including emerging from the worst economic crisis in decades, and security threats including North Korea with the Asian leaders, aides said.

He will hold the latest of his regular meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao, which will take place days after Beijing moved towards a key US foreign policy goal, letting the yuan trade more freely against the dollar.

"We of course have been cooperating and coordinating closely with China on a number of leading priorities heading into this summit, both in terms of the global economy and in terms of security issues," an official said.

The administration says its relationship with China is productive, despite disagreements on some key issues, and points to the recently passed UN Security Council sanctions on Iran as the fruit of good ties with Beijing.

Obama is also likely to discuss North Korea's nuclear challenge with Hu, and the aftermath of the sinking of a South Korean naval vessel, which an investigation blamed on Pyongyang.

North Korea will also be the dominant issue when Obama meets South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak also on Saturday.

"The focus of this meeting will be security and alliance issues in the wake of the sinking of the (ship) as the result of a torpedo attack by North Korea," an official said.

The meeting will be a public and a private demonstration of our strong solidarity with our South Korean ally in the wake of this episode."

On Sunday, Obama will have breakfast in Toronto with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of Indonesia.

The US leader was forced to cancel a planned visit to Indonesia, a country where he spent four years as a boy, earlier this month, as the Gulf of Mexico oil spill escalated into America's worst environmental crisis.

Earlier in the year, a previous attempt to visit Indonesia was dropped as Obama successfully lobbied for his landmark health care reform bill.

"Regrettably, (Obama) has not been able to make it to Indonesia yet, but he very much wants to continue the close coordination that we have with Indonesia on a number of issues," the official said.

Obama will also meet Sunday with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, as a precursor to his promised trip to India in November -- when he is also due to attend the next G20 summit in South Korea and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum (APEC) in Japan.

The president will also have his first encounter with new Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, after he replaced Yukio Hatoyama, who lost his job amid a row over the location of a US base.

Obama and Kan will also likely discuss North Korea and Iran.

source AFP

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