"It is my privilege to welcome you to this landmark gathering that reflects my personal commitment and the national commitment of the United States to a strong and enduring partnership with your 10 nations individually and to Southeast Asia as one region, as one community -- the ASEAN," Obama remarked at the opening session of the summit.
The US president then noted that he first came to know the people, the beauty, and the strength of Southeast Asia as a boy when he lived for several years with his mother in Indonesia.
"As president, I have had the opportunity to visit most of your countries. You and the people of ASEAN have always offered me extraordinary hospitality, and I hope we can reciprocate this warmth today and tomorrow," Obama remarked.
Further, Obama said he has insisted that even as the United States confronts urgent threats around the world, its foreign policy also has to capitalize on new opportunities, and few regions present more opportunity to the 21st century than the Asia-Pacific.
"That is why, early during my presidency, I decided that the United States, as a Pacific nation, would re-balance our foreign policy and play a larger and long-term role in the Asia Pacific," he affirmed.
"And this has included the engagement with Southeast Asia and the ASEAN, which is central to the regions peace and prosperity and to our shared goal of building a regional order where all nations play by the same rules," Obama emphasized.
As part of a deeper engagement, Obama expressed pride to be the first US president to meet leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries.
He noted that the US-ASEAN Summit marks their seventh meeting, and at ASEANs invitation, the United States joined the East Asia Summit, and together they have made it the regions leading forum for addressing political and security challenges.
"I have now made seven visits to the ASEAN region, which is more than any previous American president. At our last meeting in Kuala Lumpur, we forged a new strategic partnership. And our sustained engagement is delivering concrete results that benefit all of us, a momentum that we can build on here at this summit," he noted.(*)