Bolton: Obama Seemed 'Tired, Uninterested' on Asia Trip

Wednesday, 30 Apr 2014 12:53 PM

By Melissa Clyne

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President Barack Obama’s recent trip to Asia had the "look and feel of a tired, uninterested president simply going through the motions" and only further maligned the United States’ credibility and reputation on the world stage, according to John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

In a piece posted on, Bolton, who is a network contributor, writes that Obama blew a crucial opportunity to subdue and deter Chinese aggression in the territorial dispute in the East and South China Seas.

Before the president embarked on the weeklong trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines this month, the White House touted the visit as a way to "underscore a continued focus on the Asia-Pacific region and commitment to his vision of rebalancing to the world’s largest emerging region."

Instead, Bolton said, Obama displayed a weakness that did not go unnoticed on Asian officials, both in Beijing and other capitals, by continuing the narrative of "strategic ambiguity" by the United States in the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, which are claimed by Japan, Taiwan, and China and administered by Tokyo. This vague certitude promotes a sense of uncertainty, as well increases the possibility that "inadvertent incidents" in the area could escalate rapidly.

"A clear-eyed, more-active U.S. role legitimizing Japan’s de facto control could avert increased tensions and thereby enhance stability," Bolton says.

The president further "created needless trouble for Japan" and its strained relationship with South Korea by publicly criticizing Tokyo for exploiting Korean women during World War II by coercing them into sexual slavery, a practice known as "comfort women."

Russia’s continued aggression in Ukraine further helped upstage the president’s trip and "highlighted global perceptions of administration weakness and indecisiveness." And the Palestinian Authority’s decision to join with the militant Hamas, instead of aligning with Israel – something the president has expended voluminous effort working on – illustrated America’s eroding influence, according to Bolton.

"The smell of U.S. failure is unmistakable," he writes.

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