US still intent on new Asia focus: State Department

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States remains committed to its so-called pivot to Asia, a senior US official said on Monday, after a former senior White House advisor said it had been a regrettable choice of words.

General Jim Jones, the former national security advisor to President Barack Obama, told a Washington think-tank last week that "pivot to Asia" were probably "the words we regret most."

While Asia's rising influence was not in doubt, the phrase suggested to other regions including traditional allies in Europe that they did not matter as much as before, he told the Atlantic Council.

The Obama administration has sought to re-characterise its approach, preferring to refer to it as "a rebalance" of US foreign policy towards Asia. "You know the administration's strong commitment to the Asia-Pacific region. It's driven by our enduring interests and it won't change," State Department acting deputy spokesman Patrick Ventrell told journalists.

"As President Obama said, we will deepen our engagement in the region in order to seize opportunities for a more secure and prosperous future." Unlike his predecessor, Hillary Clinton, the new Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Europe for his first overseas trip since taking up his post, starting with stops in London, Berlin and Paris.

Mr Clinton had headed East, with a high-profile visit in 2009 that began in Japan but also took in Indonesia, South Korea and China.

Mr Kerry "obviously will travel to Asia and looks forward to it," Ventrell said, adding there was nothing to announce yet.

Mr Kerry is still on his first overseas trip, and was in Riyadh on Monday, heading for Abu Dhabi and Doha before returning to the US on Wednesday.

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