By Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- The abrupt cancellation of U.S. President Barack Obama's Asia trip undoubtedly came as a surprise to the region's leaders, sparking questions over whether the U.S. focus on Asia is slipping.
But expert opinion varies, with some Asia watchers arguing the White House's focus on the region is waning, while others maintain the Obama administration's commitment remains firm.
The White House announced late Thursday that Obama would cancel his trip to Asia in a bid to resolve the Congressional crisis that has caused a partial government shutdown.
Obama's trip had been slated to kick off this weekend and the president was to attend two major regional summits - the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Indonesia and the East Asia Summit in Brunei.
Some analysts noted that Obama during his recent UN speech indicated U.S. involvement with the Middle East would continue, prompting questions on whether the administration would continue to view Asia as a top foreign policy priority.
"I think that is now in real trouble," said Brookings Institution's senior fellow Kenneth Lieberthal, referring to Obama's "pivot to Asia" strategy, speaking on a panel Friday at the Carnegie Endowment for International peace.
Indeed, several analysts said Obama is losing credibility in Asia, partly due to what many see as a poorly-thought-out strategy on the Syria crisis and partly due to the president's inability to rally the country's dysfunctional Congress.
That has real consequences in Asia, analysts argued, as the U.S. Congress must ratify most trade agreements with foreign countries, including the long anticipated Trans-Pacific Partnership.
David Lampton, director of China Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, told Xinhua that Obama is besieged by a number of issues at once - from the flagging U.S. economy to the Syria crisis to soaring U.S. debt - and it has been difficult to live up to his rhetoric on Asia.
Still, others contend the U.S. remains committed to Asia.
"It is obvious that other issues have risen to the fore of the U.S. policy agenda - Syria, Iran, and the Palestinian question," said Bonnie Glaser, senior fellow in the Freeman Chair for China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"But the U.S. can implement effective policies in more than one region of the world at a time. President Obama's commitment to the Asia-Pacific is firm," Glaser told Xinhua.
"For any country, domestic crises must be resolved before the leader can fully pay attention to external problems. I would argue that this crisis is short-lived," she said of the current Congressional impasse.
"It will be resolved and the president will be back in Asia," Glaser said.
In the meantime, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hegel made a tour of the region, during which the U.S. agreed to boost defense cooperation with Japan, and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the multilateral meetings in Asia, she noted.