Biden's trip to Asia raises concerns among experts in Washington

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Washington, Jan.7 (ANI): Incoming U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden's proposed trip to Asia before he leaves his present assignment as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is raising concerns in the corridors of power in Washington.

According to Politico, Biden will be traveling to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Experts say that Biden's trip is raising concerns because he may use the opportunity to send "not-very-subtle signals" about U.S. policy in the Obama administration, even as George W. Bush is still in office.

Biden first ran the South Asia trip idea by Bush administration officials several weeks ago, said Bush spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"We discussed the trip and reviewed it in advance with them," Johndroe said. "We are facilitating the trip administratively where necessary."

But that didn't stop some serious eye-rolling by others on the Bush team. "It's certainly unique," quipped a senior Bush administration official. "And I'll just leave it at that."

Biden described the nature of his trip to reporters Tuesday after his swearing-in ceremony. "I'm going to come back and report where I think things stand in each of those countries now," he said.

But the trip, which Biden's Senate office announced on Monday as a "fact-finding" mission, calls into question just who exactly is speaking for the United States abroad in the waning days of the Bush administration, particularly as tensions heat up between India and Pakistan over who is to blame for the recent bombings in Mumbai.

"This is a very delicate time," said Thomas Donnelly, the resident fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute. "It's hard to see what positive he could do. On the other hand, the potential for confusions, missteps or a gaffe are greater than usual."

It would be awkward at best for a Vice President-elect Biden to be greeting foreign leaders and dignitaries in Afghanistan or Pakistan while the current vice president is back in Washington giving exit interviews.

As for how he'll make sure foreign leaders know he's there as a senator not as vice president-elect: Biden will go out of his way to make it clear that he's not there to propose policy, an official said.

Lisa Curtis, a senior fellow on South Asia at The Heritage Foundation, said it could be worthwhile to have Biden in the region when tensions are so high but it could also stir confusion.

"That's kind of strange to be saying 'I'm not coming out as a representative of the Obama administration' even though he's taking over as vice president in a matter of days. It may be a bit awkward for foreign officials in the region to know how to receive him," Curtis said. "Most people he meets with are going to be thinking of him as the vice president-elect."

Biden will be gone for about a week. His office would not reveal in advance where he is traveling, citing security precautions.

Biden will resign from his Senate seat after he returns from the trip, just days before he is sworn in as vice president. (ANI)

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