BALI, Indonesia — Secretary of State John Kerry warned Saturday the political standoff paralyzing Washington was "reckless" and would weaken the United States' standing abroad if it did not end soon.
The country's top diplomat said the bitter struggle between Republicans and Democrats that has led to a partial government shutdown was sending a message to the world that the United States could not get its "act together."
Kerry insisted the United States had not yet been diminished in the eyes of leaders around the world and that a solution would be found soon, but warned of consequences if the standoff continued.
"If it were prolonged, or repeated, people would begin to question the willingness of the United States to stay the course and its ability to," Kerry told reporters at a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali.
"But that's not the case and I don't think it will be the case."
President Barack Obama had been due to travel to Bali for an APEC leaders' summit starting Monday.
But he had to cancel his Asian trip, which would have also taken in Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines, to deal with the first government shutdown in 17 years.
Kerry is filling in for Obama on the Asian tour, and he made it clear that he believed Republicans blocking government spending in Congress were playing a dangerous game.
"I think it is reckless, personally, to even provide those moments where you have these risks that are exposed," Kerry said, referring to areas of spending on global security hotspots that have been suspended because of the shutdown.
Calling on Congress to immediately end the five-day standoff, Kerry urged those responsible to consider how other people around the world may view the situation.
"I believe that those standing in the way . . . of reopening our government need to think long and hard about the message that we send to the world when we can't get our own act together," he said.
Nevertheless, Kerry insisted he was convinced the standoff would not be long term, and the United States would emerge as strong as ever.
"The United States will still be the strongest power in the world, in terms of our military capacity, the largest economy in the world," he said.
Kerry also was adamant that Obama's so-called strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific had not been weakened by the president having to cancel his trip to the region.
"Let me be clear, none of what is happening in Washington diminishes one iota our commitment to our partners in Asia, including our efforts for both trade and investment throughout the region," Kerry said.
Some analysts have said the dysfunction on display in Washington will dilute the appeal of the American democratic model, and that authoritarian governments around the world are viewing the chaos with glee.
In comments that appeared to address those concerns, Kerry emphasized even the rights of people with "incorrect" views were respected in the United States.
"This is an example of the robustness of our democracy, the capacity for many people to make their voices heard, sometimes we may feel incorrectly," he said.
Kerry's comments on US commitment to Asia were echoed by his host at an APEC gathering of foreign ministers ahead of the leaders' summit.
"It is very important to underscore that the United States' engagement in the region is a process, it's not an event," Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told reporters.
"We have been seeing over the recent past the enhanced engagement by the United States in the region."
Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion US statutory borrowing limit -- without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever later this month.
But Republicans are demanding the president enter into talks on their goal to defund or delay his health reform law — a step Obama refuses to take.
© AFP 2013