WASHINGTON -- President Obama canceled part of his trip to Asia next week to deal with the government shutdown but for now is still planning to attend the two world summits on his schedule, the White House said Wednesday morning.
Obama called Philippines President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysia's prime minister, Najib Razak, on Tuesday night to tell them he is canceling his plans to visit their countries, officials said.
Instead of an eight-day trip, Obama will stay in the region only four days and attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Indonesia and the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations meeting in Brunei.
The decision reflects a belief in the White House that the government shutdown is not likely to end quickly and may still be in effect on Saturday when Obama was scheduled to leave town. The halt in government function Tuesday meant that several White House staffers were furloughed, complicating the planning for departure and travel.
Besides that, senior administration officials are worried about the president being out of the country for a long stretch when the shutdown is in full flower. The shutdown doesn't bode well for the president's side of the debt talks that will soon follow, and advisors expect to be in intense planning mode in preparation for tackling the nation's debt ceiling in mid-October.
But aides were wrestling with the quandary late Tuesday because of the high-level summits set for Monday through Thursday of next week. Obama has been trying to turn his foreign policy attention to Asia for some time now and keeps getting pulled off that task by eruptions elsewhere in the world.
During his first term, Obama had to put off two other trips to the region.
Last night, Obama told the Philippine president that Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Manila in his place. He also called the prime minister of Malaysia with news that Kerry will lead a U.S. delegation to Kuala Lumpur that includes Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and U.S. Trade Representative Mike Froman.