US is here to stay in Asia, says Obama

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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.

Photo: AFP

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.

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