President Obama arrives Monday for a weeklong trip to Asia with some unwanted baggage: Continuing questions about his administration's commitment to the region, magnified by Republican gains in the midterm elections.
Almost three years after the announcement of a global strategy that included the well-known "pivot" to east Asia, away from a focus on Europe and the Middle East, the administration faces lingering questions about its commitment to that approach, mainly because events such as Russia's aggression in Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria keep pulling its focus back westward.
Those questions have become even louder in the wake of Tuesday's vote, in which Republicans captured enough Senate seats to take control of that chamber in January and increased their majority in the House, leaving the impression that Obama is too weakened to get his way in the last two years of his presidency.
Obama is set to visit Beijing Monday for the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and a state visit with President Xi Jinping, where he is expected to again have to address concerns that the pivot is aimed at containing China's own ambitions in the Pacific. On Wednesday he heads for the East Asia Summit and the U.S.-ASEAN summit in Burma, then to Brisbane, Australia, on Saturday for the Group of 20 summit. While in Australia, Obama will deliver a policy speech on U.S. leadership in Asia, the White House said.