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Obama to juggle security, climate, rights on Asia trip

Kathleen Hennessey
Associated Press

Washington — President Barack Obama faces thorny talks about the fight against the Islamic State group, climate change and human rights when he sets off this week across the Pacific for an eight-day valedictory tour through Asia.

Obama is to leave Wednesday to attend back-to-back summits in Hangzhou, China, and Vientiane, Laos. Coming five months from the end of Obama’s term, the White House has planned the trip as a moment to highlight his administration’s seven-year effort to expand U.S. influence in Asia, including his push for massive free-trade and a landmark climate agreement with China.

White House officials said Obama will underscore the message even before leaving the U.S., heading first to Lake Tahoe for a series meetings on conservation and then on to Hawaii’s remote Midway Atoll, where Obama recently expanded the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument.

The White House said Monday that Obama’s stop will come with announcements of new executive actions aimed at boosting clean energy production in the U.S. and mitigating the effect of climate change such as wildfires and drought.

Obama will keep up the drumbeat in China, where he is attending a meeting of the Group of 20 industrial and emerging-market economies. Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are expected to offer an update on the nation’s progress toward ratifying the Paris agreement. White House officials have said they hope the historic climate change pact could enter into force by the end of the year.

But Obama’s climate change agenda will only be part of his busy agenda. Obama will sit down Sunday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the first meeting since a failed summer coup added new tensions to an already complex relationship.

Obama and Erdogan are slated to discuss the recent clashes between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces in northern Syria. The U.S. has criticized Turkey for the assault, saying the conflict distracts from the fight against IS.