The partial government shutdown, which entered its fifth day on Saturday, is a “momentary episode” and does not change the country’s commitment to Asia or other regions, said US Secretary of State John Kerry.
He was speaking in Bali, Indonesia, on the sidelines of meetings with the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) on behalf of US President Barack Obama who cancelled his tour of Asia because of the stalemate in Washington.
“Do not mistake this episode in American politics as anything more than a moment of politics. This is an example of the robustness of our democracy,” Kerry said. However, he added that if the shutdown were prolonged or repeated, people would question the United States’ ability to “stay the course.”
He dismissed suggestions that the US interests in the region were weakened by Obama’s absence at the APEC summit. “In the end, nothing will change with respect to the issues that bring us here, nothing will diminish our commitment to Asia, we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities and our engagement around the world,” he reiterated American foreign policy goals and interests.
The political standoff over the US budget has shut down non-essential government services and appeared likely to drag on for another week or more. Another crisis looms in two weeks when lawmakers must decide whether to increase the US government’s $16.7 trillion debt borrowing limit.
While Kerry dismissed any long-term impact from the shutdown, he said it would however delay payments for security assistance to Israel and funding support for a US-led peacekeeping mission in the Sinai Peninsula, which divides Egypt and Israel.
He said the US Treasury Department that oversees sanctions against Iran had been forced to furlough nearly its entire staff during the shutdown. This, he said, was coming at a time when the US was trying to re-engage with Tehran to find a solution to a longstanding dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“I think it’s clear we cannot lose this opportunity to moments of politics that deprive us of the opportunity to embrace larger and more important goals,” Kerry said regarding the potential of talks with Iran.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 6th, 2013.