Obama 2nd term to sustain Asia pivot
The agenda of the next secretary of state, who is yet to be named, could be at the mercy of events.
Walter Lohman, director of Asian studies at the Heritage Foundation think tank, said China is the main long-term strategic threat for the U.S., but the most immediate foreign policy concern is Iran's nuclear program. A conflict there would suck up resources and could upset what the administration wants to achieve elsewhere, he said.
Fighting in neighboring Syria also shows no sign of abating. Security in Iraq remains fragile, and in Afghanistan, a withdrawal of U.S. combat forces by 2014 leaves it vulnerable to the kind of civil war that blighted the country in the 1990s and led to a Taliban takeover.
Political problems at home could also cramp Obama's outreach to Asia.
His most immediate domestic challenge is an impending showdown over tackling the national debt that economists say could send the world's biggest economy back into recession.
Even before Obama gets to his second inaugural on Jan. 20, he must reach a budget deal with Republicans to prevent a combination of automatic tax increases and steep across- he-board spending cuts – dubbed a “fiscal cliff'' – set to take effect in January. That would entail nearly $500 billion in defense spending cuts over a decade that could undermine
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