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Jonathan Eyal, Europe Correspondent

US' Asia pivot still a work in progress

President Obama's trip to Asia has helped clarify several aspects of the US pivot to the region. But many ambiguities remain, including how Washington intends to react to China's rising global clout.

Published on Apr 30, 2014 2:30 PM

United States officials are justified in feeling pleased with their president's tour of Asia. For wherever he went, President Barack Obama struck the right tone, reassuring America's allies without precluding a future security dialogue with Beijing.

Yet, it would require more than one successful tour for the US to clarify its regional policies. For although the broad parameters of the US "pivot", or rebalancing to Asia are now clearer, they are not necessarily more coherent or permanent.

Perhaps for reasons of personal vanity, senior Obama officials still like to pretend that America's pivot to Asia was the product of a great academic exercise in policy reassessment.

However, that was never the case: Like all previous shifts in US foreign and security policies, the pivot to Asia began life as a cost-cutting exercise, masquerading as a great thought. Mr Obama used the pivot to claim that a leaner US military could also pack a bigger punch if it concentrated on today's global security challenges.

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Background story

The biggest challenge facing the US pivot to Asia is that of handling the region's territorial disputes. Until now, Washington's position was that it did not comment on sovereignty claims in the East and South China Seas, including those that involve its treaty allies.