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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Obama in Asia: Setting a newly cooperative tone

November 15, 2009

The Associated Press
November 13 2009

TOKYO -- President Barack Obama is emphasizing
cooperation on his first major trip to Asia,
opening with a warning to North Korea that there
will be tough, unified action by the U.S. and its
Asian partners if the Koreans fail to abandon their nuclear weapons programs.

The hard line on North Korea was to be a
prominent theme of a Friday night speech that
also was intended to more broadly showcase a
United States that, under Obama's leadership,
seeks deeper and more equal engagement in Asia.
It was to be the fifth major foreign address of
Obama's 10-month presidency, this one geared
toward setting a new tone for the sometimes-rocky
U.S. relationship with the world's fastest-growing region.

In the speech, to 1,500 prominent Japanese in a
soaring concert hall in bustling downtown Tokyo,
Obama planned to give his most extended remarks
in some time on North Korea, said Ben Rhodes, a
deputy national security adviser.

Previewing himself, Obama said after a meeting
early Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Yukio
Hatoyama that "it's absolutely vital" that North
Korea — and Iran in the Middle East — bow to
international demands that they give up nuclear
weapons ambitions. The U.S., Japan, China, Russia
and South Korea are partners in talks to persuade
North Korea to give up the active nuclear weapons
program it has in defiance of U.N. Security
Council resolutions. Pyongyang is widely believed
to have enough weapons-grade plutonium for a half-dozen nuclear bombs

If the North Koreans comply with the demands,
"then they can open the door to a better future,"
Obama said. "If not, we will remain united in
implementing U.N. resolutions that are in place
and ... helping to shape a strategy that meets
our security needs and convinces Pyongyang to move in a better direction."

Obama made Tokyo the venue for his speech, a
symbolically important choice that displayed
respect for Japan's long history as the U.S.'
chief ally in Asia and one of the region's
foremost democracies. The U.S.-Japan relationship
is on newly delicate footing after a change in
leadership in Tokyo that has the Japanese moving
toward greater independence from Washington and
closer ties with the rest of Asia.

The president's remarks came near the start of an
eight-day Asian trip that is presenting him with risks at every stop.

After Japan, Obama goes to Singapore, where he is
to join a larger meeting that includes the leader
of Myanmar's brutal regime, the first U.S.
president to make such close contact. Then he
flies to China, where relations with the U.S. are
bedeviled by Beijing's growing economic and
military might, as well as numerous issues
including trade, currency, Taiwan, human rights
and climate change. Obama ends his trip on an
easier note in South Korea, an increasingly reliable U.S. ally.

Acknowledging Asia's growing power, Obama aides
said the chief aim for the trip wasn't so much to
bring home specific "deliverables" but to
convincingly press the point that the U.S. very much is in the Asian game.

At Hatoyama's side, Obama promised that
Washington would work hard to strengthen
established alliances, such as with Japan and
South Korea, build on newer ones with nations
like China and Indonesia, and increase its
participation with Asian multilateral
organizations. The involvement, the president
said, is crucial to the issues "that matter most
to our people," such as jobs, a cleaner
environment and preventing dangerous weapons proliferation.

"I intend to make clear that the United States is
a Pacific nation, and we will be deepening our
engagement in this part of the world," the
president said. "We have to understand that the
future of the United States and Asia is inextricably linked."

America's relationships with Tokyo and Beijing
were warranting special attention in Obama's
remarks. Hoping to balance the need to stress
values such as human rights with worries about
overly irritating China, Obama planned to mention
"our commitment to the rights and freedoms that
we believe all people should have" without
bringing up Tibet, said adviser Rhodes.

Tibetans, governed by China since communist
troops took control there in 1951, say they want
some form of autonomy to freely practice their
culture and religion. China says Tibet has been
part of its territory for four centuries. Obama
has been criticized in some quarters for not
standing up more openly to the Chinese on human
rights, particularly concerning Tibet.

Several developments served to detract somewhat
from Obama's hopes for a more purely Asia-centric message for his trip.

He delayed his arrival by a day because of last
week's Fort Hood shootings, scrambling his Japan
itinerary and drastically cutting his
participation in a 21-nation summit of
Asian-Pacific leaders in Singapore focused on
trade. He also continued deliberations over how
many more U.S. troops to send to Afghanistan, a
decision that once was assumed would be behind
him during his Asia travels but now is draining
some of his time and considerable media attention.

Obama denied during the Hatoyama news conference
that his administration has dithered dangerously
over Afghanistan, saying he is bent on "getting
this right" and finding a new start to the
8-year-war that is not an "open-ended commitment."
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