Brunei 'disappointed' by cancelled Obama visit

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN, Brunei (AFP) - Brunei is "disappointed" over United States President Barack Obama's decision to cancel an Asia trip that would have included a summit next week in the sultanate, a foreign ministry official said on Friday.

The White House said late on Thursday that Mr Obama had shelved a trip that also was to include attendance at a larger Asia-Pacific summit in Indonesia, blaming the crisis back home over the US government shutdown.

"While, politically, we understand the reason for the president's decision, of course it is disappointing for all those involved," a Brunei foreign ministry official said.

"Not just those in diplomatic circles, but for a small country to host the president of the United States is a source of excitement, particularly someone of Obama's celebrity."

"I'm sure people looked forward to the pageantry of a presidential visit," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as is routine for officials with the ministry.

After days of speculation that the trip was threatened by the US government funding crisis, the White House confirmed Mr Obama would miss the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit starting on Monday in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei later in the week.

He also had planned to visit Malaysia and the Philippines but will instead by represented by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

The foreign ministry official said Mr Obama informed Brunei's ruler, Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, of the scuttled trip in a phone call on Friday morning.

The official added that Mr Obama had been set to stay at the official residence of one of Brunei's crown princes.

Brunei, a small, oil-rich sultanate on Borneo island, is the 2013 chair of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

That makes it the host of next week's ASEAN summit and the larger East Asia summit a day later including the United States, China and other countries.