U.S. Vice President Biden begins Asia visit

Dec. 2, 2013 at 1:15 AM
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TOKYO, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, on his Asia trip, will stress America's "strong commitment" to Asia-Pacific rebalancing, a senior administration officials said.

Biden, whose will spend this week in Japan, China and South Korea, is visiting the continent when several issues are once again demanding the attention of the United States when already the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama remains preoccupied with other issues such as the sticky Affordable Care Act and the P5-plus-1 agreement over Iran's nuclear program.

The most serious among the current Asian issues is China's unilateral establishment of the air defense identification zone in the East China Sea, which Washington, along with Tokyo and Seoul have rejected.

On the defense zone issue, one senior administration official said Biden's visit to China "creates an opportunity for the vice president to discuss directly with policymakers in Beijing this issue to convey our concerns directly and to seek clarity regarding the Chinese intentions in making this move at this time."

The official said Biden "will make clear that the United States has a rock-solid commitment to our allies, and at the same time, the United States also believes that the lowering of tensions and the avoiding of escalation in this region, when you're talking about the second- and third-largest economies in the world, is profoundly and deeply in the American national interest."

Another senior administration official, discussing Biden's strip, spoke of the administration's Asia-Pacific rebalancing policy and America's determination to continue as a Pacific power.

As Biden prepared to depart Washington Sunday, the White House also said his "trip will reaffirm our enduring presence as a Pacific power, promote our economic and trade interests, and underscore our commitment to rebalancing U.S. foreign policy towards the Asia-Pacific."

In Tokyo, the White House said Biden will "reaffirm the enduring strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance as a cornerstone of peace and stability in the region."

In Seoul, where he will arrive Thursday, Biden will commemorate the 60th anniversary of the U.S.-Republic of Korea Alliance, "and will reaffirm our continuing commitment to a comprehensive partnership based on shared values and mutual interests."

One senior administration official said the Biden trip is also "an opportunity to give lift to our treaty alliances and to advance our very important relationship with China."

The official also said Biden's trip follows the Asia visits of various U.S. Cabinet officials including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry.

"So the list of engagement at the Cabinet level and higher goes on, but fundamentally the message is clear and simple: The United States is a resident Pacific power, we're here to stay, and we're actively engaged on the full spectrum of issues in the region," the official said.

Biden, among other issues, will also discuss the completion of the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership and the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

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