President Obama with President Vladimir V. Putin of
summit meeting in
France-Presse — Getty Images
ANTALYA, Turkey — President Obama’s arrival in the Philippines on Tuesday morning will kick off five days of presidential diplomacy aimed at bolstering America’s allies in the region against China’s economic and military might.
White House officials said on Monday that Mr. Obama would continue consultations with world leaders about the terror attacks in and around
last week, which had already
overshadowed the planned economic discussions at the Group of 20 meeting here. Paris
But Mr. Obama is eager to press the case for what his administration calls a “rebalance” in
Asia that aims to empower countries in the region to compete with by developing closer diplomatic ties
and pushing for more open trade. China
“We’re strengthening relations with our treaty allies. We’re building ties to new partners and strengthening regional institutions,” said Susan E. Rice, the president’s national security adviser.
Central to that effort is the president’s yearslong push for the adoption of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, a trade pact involving a dozen countries, including the
. Mr. Obama will arrive in the region
with the agreement in hand, though not yet approved by Congress. United States
In meetings with more than a half-dozen world leaders and in a speech to business executives, Mr. Obama plans to make his case that passage of the pact is critical to the region’s economic health.
“They will celebrate the achievement of that agreement,” said Matthew P. Goodman, a specialist in Asian economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
. “Economics is strategy. And if
that’s true, then the president is heading out on this whirlwind trip in a very
strong position.” Washington
But any celebration of the trade deal — as well as talks with other nations about the possibility of joining the partnership in the future — may be overshadowed by discussions about how to confront China’s activities in the South China Sea.
has not taken a formal position on
the competing territorial claims, Mr. Obama has sought to defend the right of
ships to navigate freely through international waters. In late October, the United
States Navy sent a
destroyer into waters within 12 miles of the islands. United States
“What we do take a strong position on is protecting the rights, freedoms and lawful uses of the sea and airspace that’s guaranteed to all countries,” said Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary.
Mr. Obama is scheduled to hold one-on-one meetings during his visit to Asia with the leaders of Australia, Canada, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and Laos. Several are likely to press him to be more aggressive in challenging
in the China South China Sea.
But while saying that the
South China Sea will be a “central issue” during Mr.
Obama’s trip, Ms. Rice has sought to lower expectations that the meetings this
week will produce a specific “code of conduct” for the region, as some of the
nations’ leaders have urged.
“I’m confident that this will continue to be something that we and others encourage, but I don’t expect it to be a concrete outcome of this particular visit,” Ms. Rice told reporters last week.
Mr. Obama is expected to make a demonstration of the
’ commitment to freedom of navigation
in the region by visiting a maritime facility at a port in United States . Aides did not provide specifics,
but said the visit would “showcase our maritime cooperation with the Manila .” Philippines
and the United States agreed last year to a landmark deal
that would reopen some Philippine bases to American military equipment and
personnel. But that agreement has been held up in the Philippines ’ Supreme Court, and American
officials said they did not expect a major announcement during Mr. Obama’s
Later in the week, the president is scheduled to travel to
, the capital of Kuala Lumpur , where he will continue consulting
with the region’s leaders in two separate meetings. Malaysia
He is also scheduled to visit a refugee center in
to highlight what the administration
describes as a global crisis of people fleeing violence in their countries. Malaysia
The visit “is not focused just on
or Malaysia Asia, but rather speaks to the global
responsibility that countries have to provide support for refugees,” said
Benjamin J. Rhodes, the president’s deputy national security adviser.
The visit to
may be awkward for Mr. Obama because
Najib Razak, the nation’s prime minister, is embroiled in a corruption scandal.
In September, it was revealed that federal investigators in the Malaysia were examining allegations of
corruption involving Mr. Najib. United States
Last year, Mr. Obama played golf with Mr. Najib during the president’s annual vacation in