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White House seeks to assure Asia that U.S. rebalancing is major objective

U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice looks up during a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shin
U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice looks up during a meeting between U.S. President Barack Obama (R) and Japanese Prime Minister Shin

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House sought to reassure allies in the Asia-Pacific region on Wednesday that a U.S. commitment to a policy pivot toward Asia remains a major objective, despite a recent American focus on events in the Middle East.

President Barack Obama's cancellation of an Asia trip in October raised questions about the extent of his commitment to a policy shift. Lately, however, the United States has been working toward an international accord on Iran's nuclear program after striking an agreement on the Syrian government's stockpile of chemical weapons.

Obama's national security adviser, Susan Rice, announced that Obama would travel to Asia in April to make up for a visit canceled in October due to a U.S. budget crisis.

Vice President Joe Biden is to visit China, Japan and South Korea in early December and Secretary of State John Kerry is to return to Asia in a matter of weeks.

"No matter how many hot spots emerge elsewhere, we will continue to deepen our enduring commitment to this critical region," Rice said in a speech at Georgetown University in Washington.

Rice used much of her speech to focus on China. The aim with Beijing, she said, is to manage "inevitable competition" while building deeper cooperation on issues where the two countries have agreements.

She said the United States will continue insisting on tangible progress by Beijing to improve the atmosphere for bilateral trade. The issues include a market-based exchange rate and increased U.S. access to Chinese markets and bolstering protections of U.S. corporate intellectual property rights.

Cyber-assisted espionage hurts China, Rice said. If actions are not taken to rein it in, she said, "This behavior will undermine the economic relationship that benefits both of our nations."

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Christopher Wilson)

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