President Barack Obama is expected to leave on his fifth visit to the Asia-Pacific today. The six-day trip includes stops in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, as well as a visit to Malaysia to make up for an October 2013 trip that was cancelled due to the government shutdown, announced the White House. National Security Adviser Susan Rice said America’s top priorities are “tied to Asia,” whether in promoting trade agreements or protecting security interests. All stops on the trip intersect with the Administration’s priorities, which include modernizing security alliances, advancing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and investing in institutions like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosted the ASEAN defense ministers in Hawaii earlier this month. The stop in the Philippines comes on the heels of a recent breakthrough in negotiations between the State Department and Philippine officials to expand regular rotations of US military forces, including USAF training and exercising. Obama is expected to unveil a finalized agreement with the Philippines during the visit. (DOD release.) (White House transcript.)
New F-35s are coming off the production line with the TR-3 upgrade and going right into storage because testing is incomplete. Next lot negotiations are continuing, but talks over a performance-based logistics contract have stalled.