Vientiane, Laos - Secretary of State John Kerry: "Well, good morning and thank you very – good afternoon – thank you very much, Secretary-General Othman. I really appreciate your welcome. I appreciate your comments. And to all of our colleagues, my colleagues here, thank you very, very much for being here and being part of this important meeting.
"I’m going to be very, very brief because I know we’re running late and we want to get into the meat of our discussion on a private level here, but let me extend my thanks also to Foreign Minister Saleumxay. We’re very appreciative to Laos (inaudible), for your welcome to all of us here and for the organizational effort you have put into this. And I’m pleased personally to be back on the banks of the Mekong with my ASEAN counterparts.
"Just quickly, over the last eight years, the United States, under the leadership of President Obama’s Administration, has steadily rebalanced our efforts and our investments towards the Asia Pacific region, and particularly Southeast Asia. And we have done so, my friends, for a simple reason: Because we know that our peace and prosperity are linked to yours. And we’re very proud to be ASEAN’s partner because you are speaking up for a rules-based international system that protects the rights of all nations, whether big or small; because you have a convening power to bring together all of Asia; and because the United States believes that ASEAN-led mechanisms are the very best way to find common solutions for our shared challenges.
"So with the signing of the ASEAN-U.S. Strategic Partnership last November and the Leaders Meeting President Obama hosted at Sunnylands earlier this year, our relationship as a consequence is really stronger than ever. Joint initiatives like the U.S.-ASEAN Connect – which is aimed at deepening our economic cooperation by focusing on innovation, energy, business engagement, and policy – all of these things are going to help bring our nations even closer.
"So today, I really look forward to discussing with each of you the best ways that we can advance our shared priorities through our Strategic Partnership, and also by setting the stage for a productive meeting in September when our leaders are going to meet again in the region. So everybody here knows we have no shortage of challenges. We also know – and particularly with recent experience in a number of countries sitting at the table – we know what can happen and how much good can happen and be accomplished when we work together, when we invest in the future, and perhaps most importantly, when we support the rules-based system that has led to steadily increasing peace and prosperity for nearly 50 years now for our countries. And it’s been a remarkable transformation that has taken place in this region over these last few years as a consequence of this investment. We can talk more about that in a few minutes, but I just want to thank every one of our colleagues. I’m honored to co-chair this and look forward to our conversation, Mr. Secretary-General. Thank you."