The White House says US President Barack Obama is pushing ahead with his trip to Asia and Australia because the area is fundamental to America’s economic and security interests.
The trip will be shorter than first planned, with the president spending little more than 24 hours in Australia, and only visiting Canberra.
The White House has revealed the details and expectations for the visit, suggesting climate change, trade and terrorism will all be on the agenda.
Some were wondering if this trip would go ahead at all, after being delayed and condensed so the president could try to win support for his domestic health reforms.
But the White House says the president considers it critical that he builds on the partnerships in the Asia-Pacific region, suggesting it is an area that has been neglected.
In a phone briefing for reporters, National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough described Australia and Indonesia as essential partners.
“The Asia-Pacific region is fundamental to the economic and security interests of the United States in the 21st century,” he said.
“And in order to effectively advance those interests, we need to deepen and broaden our engagement in our leadership in the region, which is why we have taken a more aggressive role in engaging groups like APEC and ASEAN.”
The National Security Council’s director for Asian affairs, Jeff Bader, says China is bound to be discussed because the US and Australia share similar perceptions, describing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd as being deeply knowledgeable on the subject.
“We both see China’s emergence as a major economy, a driving economy in the world, as offering great potential to both our countries,” he said.
“Potentials for growth, potential for prosperity of our citizens, who are also looking to reshape the international regulatory system through the G20 in a way that ensures that new actors, such as China, are acting consistent with international norms.”
Mr Bader says visiting Australia will deepen the partnership on environmental and economic issues and that clean energy and trade will be key areas of discussion.
“Australia’s got great beef but we want to make sure that there are not obstacles to the import of US beef,” he said.
“But also the aviation sector is one where the US has found good customers is Australia in the past.”
Before Mr Obama arrives in Australia though, for what will be a brisk visit, he is spending time in Indonesia, home to the world’s largest Muslim population.
It will be the first visit to a Muslim country since he delivered a key address in Cairo in June 2009 and the White House has suggested the president’s return to his childhood home of Indonesia could be another opportunity to bridge the divisions with the Muslim world.