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Kerry: Biggest risk to US is dysfunction

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Center for American Progress 10th Anniversary Conference in Washington, DC, October 24, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during the Center for American Progress 10th Anniversary Conference in Washington, DC, October 24, 2013

Secretary of State John Kerry warned Thursday that the greatest risk to the United States was its own dysfunction as he pleaded for no repeat of a government shutdown.

Kerry said that the two-week paralysis triggered by lawmakers of the rival Republican Party had set back vital government functions and also cut into the credibility of the United States.

Speaking after a month traveling through Asia and Europe, Kerry said what he saw should serve as a "stern warning" for Congress to avoid a similar shutdown when the debt ceiling next approaches in February.

"Make no mistake, the greatest danger to America doesn't come from a rising rival, it comes from the damage that we're capable of doing by our own dysfunction and the risks that will arise in a world that may see restrained or limited American leadership as a result," Kerry said.

Kerry, addressing the left-leaning Center for American Progress, said that the shutdown "didn't impress anyone about the power of America's example."

"It has entered into the calculation of leaders, as we negotiate with Iran, as we negotiate with the Middle East peace process and Israel -- can we be counted on?" Kerry said.

Echoing a frequent refrain of US leaders, Kerry insisted that the United States remained the "indispensable partner" in addressing global challenges.

"There is no arrogance in saying that," he said.

"I know there are some Americans who don't care how the world sees us, but in an integrated world -- a genie that no politican can put back into any bottle -- we have lost the luxury of looking only inward," he said.

Republican lawmakers of the right-wing populist Tea Party movement championed the shutdown, which nearly led to a US government default, in a bid to force President Barack Obama to change his signature reform of expanding health care coverage.

Obama has vowed that the United States will pay more attention to Asia in a so-called "pivot" strategy, which comes as China's clout grows in the rapidly developing continent.

But Obama canceled a four-nation trip to Asia to focus on the shutdown, with Kerry going instead. Amid Obama's absence, Chinese President Xi Jinping went on his own tour of Southeast Asia and highlighted Beijing's growing investment.

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