Apec 2013: Govt shutdown doesn't diminish US commitment to Asia, says Kerry
LOOKING visibly frustrated, top United States diplomat John Kerry warned bickering American lawmakers on Saturday that a prolonged government shutdown would hurt the country’s image in the world.
"Those standing in the way of reopening our government need to think long and hard about the message we send to the world when we can't get our own act together," said Mr Kerry, a former US senator of 28 years before he became the Secretary of State in February.
His comments came as an ongoing legislative impasse in Washington shut down the US government and forced President Barack Obama to cancel his attendance at this year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meetings.
There is growing talk in Washington and Asia that Mr Obama’s no-show could be seen as a sign of weakness.
Mr Kerry cautioned against reading too much into the geopolitical impact of the shutdown.
He told reporters: "To all of our friends and foes around the world: Do not mistake this momentary episode in American politics for anything less than a moment of politics or anything more than a moment of politics.
"I want to make clear: What is happening in Washington does not diminish one iota of our commitment to our partners in Asia, or our commitment to promote trade and investment to the region."
But he acknowledged that the stalemate had regrettably affected some of America's commitments and responsibilities in other parts of the world.
He cited how US security assistance to Israel, its strongest ally in the Middle East, was being delayed, with a peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula not getting the support it needed at a time of growing unrest in the region.
And the US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, which oversees sanctions against Iran, had been forced to furlough nearly all its staff at a time when the world was watching to see whether a combination of sanctions and careful diplomacy could lead to Iran giving up its nuclear weapons programme, he added.
"It is clear we cannot lose this opportunity to moments of politics that deprive us of the opportunity to embrace larger and more important goals," Mr Kerry said, referring to the chance to re-engage diplomatically with Iran.
Turning to Apec, Mr Kerry stressed that the summit mattered to the US because it was a platform for the governments and private sectors to come together and break down barriers to commerce.
"It is a chance for us to come to the fastest growing region in the world and begin talking about how we invest in one another and how we can better connect our economies one to the other," he said.