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US shutdown only 'momentary', says Kerry

As the US enters the fifth day of a partial government shutdown, analysts are warning that its global influence could be at risk. But US Secretary of State John Kerry has labeled the shutdown "a momentary episode."

"When we get this moment of political silliness behind us we will get back on a track the world will respect and want to be part of," Kerry told reporters at an Asia-Pacific leaders conference in Bali, Indonesia, while calling on US lawmakers to "end it [the shutdown] now, end it today."

At a news conference at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum on Saturday, Kerry also admitted that, if the shutdown were prolonged or repeated, people would question the ability of the US to "stay the course."

But he reassured his listeners that "[n]othing will diminish our commitment to Asia... we will continue to fulfill our responsibilities and our engagement around the world."

Kerry is representing the US at summits in Indonesia and Brunei after President Barack Obama canceled his planned Asia trip to deal with the shutdown, which has crippled large parts of the federal government, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers on unpaid holiday.

In Asia, Obama had planned to work on issues related to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a US-led trading bloc, which he sees a key element in "rebalancing" US strategy toward the region.

But officials said talks on the pact would go ahead despite Obama's absence in the hope of meeting a deadline at the end of this year.

US global role undermined

The US government shutdown began on Tuesday, when the Republican-led lower house refused to approve a bill funding the government without it including measures to delay or defund key provisions of Obama's health care act, which is now being implemented.

With negotiations on tax and free trade treaties on hold, and the enforcement of sanctions against Iran and Syria being hindered, some analysts are warning that the global standing of the US is being eroded.

State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf has called the shutdown "damaging," saying it "really negatively impacts our standing abroad."

"For a Congress that talks a lot about American exceptionalism, they're sending the exact opposite message all around the world right now."

There has also been concern that vital face-to-face talks at the highest level cannot take place under the shutdown, with Moscow voicing disappointment that Obama would not meet President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Indonesian summit.

"There is a great need in our bilateral relations for a dialogue at the highest level," Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

A second round of talks on a key European Union-US free trade treaty scheduled to take place in Brussels next week has also been cancelled, as the US could not send a delegation. Some vital US programs abroad, such as funds for key partners Israel and Egypt, are also being impacted.

tj/fpd (AP, Reuters, AFP)