Obama, US President
Obama, US President

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19 (Xinhua/Sun) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said on Friday he does not expect to visit Cuba anytime soon, two days after the historic announcement of policy shift to normalize relations with the island country.

"We're not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President (Raul) Castro coming to the United States is in the cards," Obama told a year-end news conference, adding that he imagines that at some point in his life he will visit Cuba.

The president said he would weigh in with Congress to ease the embargo the U.S. imposed on Cuba but did not anticipate it to happen soon.

"There's going to be a process where Congress digests it," Obama said. "I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there's any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo."

On Wednesday, Obama announced major U.S. policy change on Cuba, putting forward a number of measures to pursue normalizing relations between the two countries after more than five decades of estrangement.

The United States will start talks with Cuba on restoring diplomatic relations and is taking steps to increase travel, commerce and the flow of information to and from Cuba, Obama said in an address at the White House.

The thaw of U.S.-Cuba relations, despite being hailed by many as a foreign policy achievement of the Obama administration, was also criticized as a result of U.S. compromise with Castro's government.

At Friday's press conference, Obama defended his policy shift toward Cuba, saying that normalizing relations would give the U.S. "a greater opportunity to have influence" on Havana.

"We will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take, the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world, when they do things we think are wrong," he said.