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Obama shortens Asia trip due to government shutdown: official

President Barack Obama has postponed visits to Malaysia and the Philippines so he can concentrate on dealing with the first federal government shutdown in 17 years, an administration official confirmed Wednesday.

National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said that "logistically, it was not possible to go ahead with these trips in the face of a government shutdown."

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says it was a "logistical decision related to the shutdown" that caused President Barack Obama's trip to Asia to be shortened.

She added: "President Obama's travel to Malaysia and the Philippines has been postponed. Because they are on the back end of the president's upcoming trip, our personnel was not yet in place and we were not able to go forward with planning."

Hayden said Secretary of State John Kerry would take Obama's place in both Malaysia and the Philippines.

Obama had been due to discuss economic and security issues with Asian leaders during a trip to Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines from October 6-12.

Hayden said officials were continuing to evaluate Obama's planned trips to Indonesia and Brunei "based on how events develop throughout the course of the week."

Obama is scheduled attend an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation economic meeting in Indonesia, the country where he spent part of his childhood.

Earlier, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak told The Star newspaper that Obama had telephoned him to inform him he would not be travelling to his country.

"President Obama said he is not able to visit Malaysia," Razak was quoted as saying.

Obama had been expected to meet with Razak in Malaysia and give a keynote speech to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, a program the Obama administration started in 2009 to create jobs by helping young people.

“Prime Minister Najib expressed his understanding and said that he looked forward to welcoming the president to Malaysia in the near future,” a White House spokesperson added. 

Obama was to have been the first U.S. president to visit Malaysia since Lyndon B. Johnson in 1966.

A White House official said Obama had "noted our shared commitment to the security of the Philippines, and the broader security and prosperity of the Asia-Pacific region" when speaking to President Benigno Aquino.

A spokesman for the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs said relations with the U.S. would not be affected by the cancellation.

“President Aquino understands the decision of President Obama.  Philippines-U.S. relations remain strong and forward-looking,” they said  in a statement.  

The country’s embassy in Washington D.C. also tweeted the message. 

Obama twice canceled trips to Asia in 2010, once to stay in Washington for votes on his health-care law, and once because of the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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