The Straits Times
Published on Nov 17, 2012

Obama heads for Asia with key stop in Myanmar


WASHINGTON(AFP) - President Barack Obama headed for Asia on Saturday for a tour of three countries on his first foreign trip since winning re-election that would see him make a once unthinkable stop in Myanmar.

The first trip by a US president spent entirely in South-east Asia since the Vietnam War, the visit that will also take in Thailand and Cambodia aims to emphasise the Obama administration's focus on the dynamic and largely US-friendly region where several nations worry about a rising China.

His tour, however, also comes at an awkward time amid a spiralling conflict between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas, with the Jewish state poised to launch its first ground offensive on the Palestinian territory in four years.

At home, Mr Obama is in tough negotiations with lawmakers to avoid steep automatic budget cuts and tax hikes that could send the country back into recession.