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IN THE NEWS - Security Concerns Raised on Obama's Asian Trip

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South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Apr. 25, 2014.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye welcomes U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday, Apr. 25, 2014.

From VOA Learning English, this is In The News.

It has been nearly three years since President Barack Obama announced what has been called the "Asia pivot." The term describes increasing attention on East Asia and the Pacific after reducing American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This week, President Obama left Washington for a weeklong trip to four Asian countries. The trip aimed to re-state U.S. support for the security of Asian allies and for reducing trade barriers among Pacific nations.

Mr. Obama arrived in Japan Wednesday at a time when a number of allies are concerned about China's military expansion. Many Japanese have noted the failure of the Obama administration to act on its threats to attack Syria. They have seen the administration's unwillingness to provide military aid to Ukraine. The Japanese are worried that the United States may not come to Japan's aid.

President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on April 24, 2014.
President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo on April 24, 2014.

On Thursday, the president said the U.S. would honor a defense treaty with Japan if China seizes a disputed group of islands. The islands are known as Senkaku in Japan and as Diaoyu in China. Mr. Obama spoke after talks with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

"The treaty between the United States and Japan preceded my birth, so obviously this isn't a red line that I'm drawing. It is the standard interpretation over multiple administrations of the terms of the alliance, which is that territories under the administration of Japan are covered under the treaty. There's no shift in position. There's no red line that's been drawn. We're simply applying the treaty."

But in Beijing, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman noted that nothing has changed. The official said, "the Diaoyu Islands are China's inherent territory" and the country would protect its "sovereignty and maritime rights."

At his meetings in Tokyo, President Obama urged Japan to speed up talks for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The partnership would create a free trade zone among Pacific countries. The negotiations were slowed down over Japanese taxes on agricultural products.

On Friday, the U.S president was in Seoul for talks with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. At a joint press conference, Mr. Obama said America would never back away from its promise to help South Korea. He also said the two countries will stand "shoulder to shoulder" against any incitement by North Korea. Earlier he gave a warning to the North against carrying out another nuclear test.

After two days in Seoul, Mr. Obama will visit Malaysia and then the Philippines. Territorial disputes with China and U.S. military cooperation will again come up for discussion.

This is President Obama's fifth visit to Asia since taking office in 2009. Susan Rice is his National Security Advisor. Speaking before the Asian tour, she presented the trip as a chance to declare U.S. focus on Asia and the Pacific.

"Whether it ought to be viewed as a containment of China, I would say this trip has a very positive, affirmative agenda and that is how we are looking at it - as an opportunity to solidify and modernize our alliances and partnerships; as an opportunity to advance our economic agenda."

And that's In The News from VOA Learning English. I'm Steve Ember.

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