President Obama canceled his upcoming trip to Asia late Thursday night, blaming congressional Republicans and the government shutdown for his decision to remain in Washington.
Secretary of State John Kerry will attend the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Indonesia and the East Asia Summit in Brunei in place of the president, press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.
Kerry is also expected to travel to Kuala Lumpur and Manila — the final, already canceled legs of what had been an eight-day White House trip.
"The cancellation of this trip is another consequence of the House Republicans forcing a shutdown of the government," Carney said.
"This completely avoidable shutdown is setting back our ability to create jobs through promotion of U.S. exports and advance U.S. leadership and interests in the largest emerging region in the world."
For the president, the logistical and political disadvantages of traveling during the shutdown proved insurmountable.
But foreign policy experts have also warned that pulling out of the summits could leave American trade and security interests at risk.
The decision risks offending allies in Asia, they say and could undermine the president's attempts to refocus attention on the region.
Still, leaving the country would have forfeited the bully pulpit and opened him up to attacks by the GOP.
In an interview before the announcement, Princeton University professor Julian Zelizer said that attempting to make the trip would have been "tricky to pull off without political fallout."
"Leaving Washington in the middle of a government shutdown gives the Republicans an opportunity to say he isn't really interested in negotiation, that he's abroad when the country is in crisis," Zelizer said. "It's a difficult trip for him to take right now, and the sense of crisis will only increase in the next few days."
Carney acknowledged as much Thursday, saying the president was determined "to continue pressing his case that Republicans should immediately allow a vote to reopen the government."
Still, foreign policy experts said the international implications of cancellation might have made the trip worth risking.
Matt Goodman, who served as the White House coordinator on APEC during Obama's first term, stressed that the president risked alienating Asian leaders.
"In Asia, you get points for showing up. … If you cancel, it's considered very bad form and it's remembered for a very long time," Goodman said.
Goodman said that Asian leaders still talk about decisions by former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton to skip APEC summits. Clinton skipped the conference in 1995 during a government shutdown, creating tension with Japan, which served as the host nation.
The cancellation also risks undermining the emphasis the president has placed on a so-called "pivot" toward the East.
Obama has spoken about the need to focus diplomatic attention on the region as China and other economies emerge on the global stage.
He's identified Asia as a key area for U.S. engagements," said Suzanne DiMaggio, the vice president of global policy programs at the Asia Society. "The APEC summit to be held in Bali and the East Asia summit in Brunei are two important venues for the U.S. to really communicate that they are committed to engaging Asia economically, diplomatically, [and] politically."
That renewed focus has been cast into doubt in recent months, as events in the Middle East, including the ouster of Egypt's president, Syria's use of chemical weapons, the Israel-Palestine peace talks and Iran's nuclear negotiations have dominated the agenda.
Diplomats and trade experts also warn that Obama's absence could further stall a trans-Pacific trade agreement that countries had hoped to complete by the end of the year.
The president will also miss opportunities for sideline security discussions on not just the Middle East, but American naval interests and North Korea.
Earlier Thursday, Carney stressed the value the White House placed on the meetings.
"These are the kinds of meetings where representation by the United States at the highest level achieves, you know, good things for us in terms of our national security and in terms of our role in the global economy," said Carney.
— Updated at 10:40 p.m.