After the brief six-hour visit in Myanmar, Obama heads to Cambodia for a summit with Asian leaders. He returns to Washington early Wednesday.
Even as he looked to Asia, Obama was reminded anew that other priorities remain on the agenda with escalating violence in Gaza that has left 45 people dead. In his first comments about the situation, Obama Sunday repeatedly backed Israel’s right to defend itself. "There’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," he said. "We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself."
He also urged a step back from the violence lest it do even more damage to long term wishes for peace.
"If we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads toa two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future," Obama said in his news conference with Shinawatra.
In Thailand on Sunday, Obama met with King Bhumibol Adulyadej, an iconic figure who has ruled the nation for more than half a century. The 84-year-old Massachusetts-born king, the longest-serving monarch in the world, is in poor health and has lived at a hospital for several years. He also met with the prime minister.
"We will continue to build on a strong foundation in expanding our trade and investment to promote growth and create jobs,’’ Shinawatra said at a dinner for Obama. "The world is changing fast, and only through trust, partnership can we ensure peace and prosperity for both nations."
Since World War II, the United States and Thailand have significantly expanded both diplomatic and economic relations, though recently the Thai government refused to allow NASA to use an airfield for monitoring atmospheric conditions. But Thailand did announce its intention to join a new trade agreement – the Trans Pacific Partnership – that will include environmental and labor standards.
“We felt it was very important to begin this trip by visiting a U.S. ally,’’ said Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor. “Allies are the cornerstone of our rebalancing effort in Asia…So it was very important for us to send a signal to the region that allies are going to continue to be the foundation of our approach.”