The world will be watching with interest when U.S. President Barack Obama visits Asia later this week, with stops scheduled in Thailand, Cambodia, and Myanmar. China's newly anointed leadership will be likely to take a particularly close look, according to Suzanne DiMaggio, Asia Society's Vice President of Global Policy Programs.
"Beijing will likely see [the trip] as a very strong effort to counter-balance their influence in the region," says DiMaggio, who recently hosted U.S. visits by Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and reformist President Thein Sein.
The fact that President Obama chose Asia as his first overseas trip following his re-election clearly signals that the U.S. intends to focus more time and attention on the region as it works to build up military ties, deepen diplomatic relations, and increase trade initiatives, DiMaggio said.
"I do think one of the key challenges facing President Obama in his second term will be how to manage the relationship with Beijing…arguably the most important bilateral relationship for the United States, and, at the same time, carry out this very expansive policy towards Asia," DiMaggio says. "That is going to take some diplomatic finessing to make sure both roll out in a way that serves the United States' interest."
According to DiMaggio, during his visit to Myanmar — the first by a sitting U.S. president — Obama will commend Thein Sein for his reform efforts, but will also press him to address ongoing unrest between Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists in the western state of Rakhine.
Watch DiMaggio's interview about the President's visit below.