BALI, Indonesia — Filling in for an absent U.S. President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday sought to assure Asia-Pacific business leaders that nothing will shake America's commitment to the region and that the current government shutdown in Washington will soon be over and forgotten.
In an address to executives at an Asian economic summit in Indonesia, Kerry said that the shutdown is simply a "moment in politics." He guaranteed America will move beyond it quickly and will come back more resilient than ever.
Obama was scheduled to deliver the speech but was forced to cancel his participation to deal with the shutdown. Kerry, who unsuccessfully ran for the White House nearly a decade ago, joked that his appearance did not exactly fulfill his former presidential ambitions.
"In 2004, obviously, I worked very, very hard to replace a president. This is not what I had in mind," he said to laughter and applause from a packed auditorium at a luxury hotel on the resort island of Bali.
Turning to the shutdown, which has led to speculation that American leadership and its place in the world may be faltering, Kerry warned against reading too much into it.
"No one should mistake what is happening in Washington as anything more than a moment in politics. We've all seen it before and we'll probably see it again," he said. "But I guarantee you we will move beyond this and it and we will move beyond it with strength and determination."
Kerry told the executives that America's resilience "will continue well beyond this moment being considerably forgotten by all of you" and maintained that the Obama's administration determination to focus on Asia would remain unchanged.
The shutdown and Obama's cancellation of his planned four-nation Asian tour has raised concerns that other nations, particularly China, may fill a vacuum left by U.S. preoccupation with domestic troubles. Kerry rejected those fears.
"I want to emphasize here that there is nothing that will shake the commitment of the United States to the rebalance in Asia that President Obama is leading," he said, before urging the region's business leaders to push their governments for wide-ranging reforms.
Kerry called on them to press for the elimination of corruption and the promotion of rule of law as ways to encourage investment and spur development. He also said climate change had to be addressed to prevent humanitarian and business catastrophes.
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