US is here to stay in Asia, says Obama
distress, we also regret that it came across as a personal attack on the US President,” he said in a statement.
The setback in US-Philippine relations comes at a crucial time in the region, with China seeking to cement control over the contested South China Sea.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have competing claims to the strategically vital waters, but have watched China expand its presence by building artificial islands in key locations.
An international tribunal ruled in July that China’s claims to the waters – through which US$5 trillion in global shipping trade passes – had no legal basis.
The verdict was widely seen as a sweeping victory for the Philippines, which filed the suit under the previous administration of Benigno Aquino. But China has vowed to ignore the ruling.
Mr Obama’s aides had previously said that he wanted to discuss the South China Sea issue with Mr Duterte in Laos.
Nevertheless, the South China Sea issue is expected to once again be discussed at the three days of meetings hosted by ASEAN, which will also be attended by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and other leaders.
The gathering will see the 10 ASEAN members meet by themselves, then with leaders from the US, China Japan, South Korea and China.
Other leaders to attend an East Asia summit scheduled for tomorrow include those from Australia, India and New Zealand.
Laos is the final Asian visit of Mr Obama’s eight-year presidency, during which he has sought to refocus American military, political and economic resources on the region.
It is also the first visit by a sitting US president to Laos, which the United States secretly carpet-bombed for nearly a decade during the Vietnam War, killing tens of thousands of people. – BARACK Obama, on his final visit to Asia as US president, insisted yesterday that renewed American engagement with the region would endure after he left the White House.
“America’s interest in the AsiaPacific is not new. It’s not a passing fad. It reflects fundamental national interests,” he said in a speech in the Lao capital of Vientiane.
The US president is making his 11th and last trip to the Asia-Pacific, seeking to cement a “pivot” to the region that has been a hallmark of his eight-year administration.
During his speech in Laos, Mr Obama took time to summarise that policy, which has often been distracted by protracted violence and instability in the Middle East.
“As president, a key priority of my foreign policy has been to deepen our engagement with the nations and peoples of the Asia-Pacific,” he told delgates, adding that he remained “confident” the new engagement would last.
Mr Obama trumpeted increased military cooperation with countries such as the Philippines, Singapore and India, as well as a push for greater trade with the region, and vowed this would continue.
“We are here to stay. In good times and bad, you can count on the United States of America,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama also addressed concerns in China, which has watched the US pivot with suspicion while pursuing its own increasingly muscular foreign policy in the region.
“The United States and China are engaged across more areas than ever before,” Mr Obama told delegates.
He added that Washington “welcomes the rise of a China that is peaceful, stable and prosperous and a responsible player in global affairs because we belive that will benefit all of us”.
But he also reiterated his steadfast support for access to disputed waters in the region which China claims as its own.
“Across the region, including in the East and South China Seas, the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and support the right of all countries to do the same,” he said.
“Today I’ll be meeting with (South Korean) President Park (Geun-hye) to reaffirm our unbreakable alliance and to insist that the international community remains united so that North Korea understands its provocations will only continue to deepen its isolation,” Mr Obama added.
North Korea on September 5 testfired three ballistic missMriles into the Sea of Japan, a new show of force as Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders met at the G20 summit in China.
North Korea has conducted a series of missile tests this year in defiance of UN sanctions imposed after its fourth nuclear test in January.
Laos President Bounnhang Vorachith (left) and US President Barack Obama (right) speak during an official lunch at the Presidential Palace in Vientiane yesterday. Mr Obama became the first US president to visit Laos in office, touching down in Vientiane on September 5 for a summit of East and Southeast Asian leaders.