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Obama in Singapore for economic summit

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Obama's APEC summit agenda
  • U.S. President Barack Obama arrives in Singapore for APEC summit
  • U.S. leader expected to individually meet with leaders of Russia, Indonesia, Singapore
  • In Saturday speech, Obama renews U.S. ties with Japan, reaches out to China
  • Obama: Rise "of a strong, prosperous China can be a source of strength

Singapore (CNN) -- U.S. President Barack Obama, on his first Asia trip since taking office in January, arrived Saturday in Singapore to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum.

In addition to the meetings with the APEC heads of state, Obama planned to hold three bilateral meetings -- with the leaders of Russia, Indonesia and Singapore.

APEC's 21 member nations represent more than half of the world's economic output. The forum sees its goal as "facilitating economic growth, cooperation, trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific region."

Obama will become the first U.S. president to take part in a summit of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic alliance. The formal meeting is Sunday.

Video: Economy to take center stage at APEC
Video: Obama's Japan speech analysis
Video: Obama calls for China partnership

Earlier Saturday, Obama told a packed house at Tokyo's Suntory Hall that all Americans should know that what happens in Asia "has a direct effect on our lives at home."

The president leaves Sunday for Shanghai, China.

The trip, which lasts more than a week, is Obama's first to Asia since taking office in January. In his Tokyo speech, Obama touted himself as America's "first Pacific president," and pledged a renewed engagement with Asia Pacific nations based on "an enduring and revitalized alliance between the United States and Japan."

He touched on nearly every part of the Asia Pacific region during his speech, and talked about a boyhood visit to Japan with his mother, his birth in Hawaii, a childhood spent partly in Indonesia and the United States' position as a Pacific nation.

"There must be no doubt: as America's first Pacific president, I promise you that this Pacific nation will strengthen and sustain our leadership in this vitally important part of the world," he said.

He emphasized that the United States was not interested in containing the emerging economic growth in China.

Obama also called on Myanmar to make more definitive moves toward democracy, including releasing all political prisoners.


He urged North Korea to return to the Six-Party Talks so the reclusive nation can be reintegrated into the world stage and pledged America's support for eliminating nuclear weapons and efforts to reduce the global effects of climate change.

In China, Obama will continue efforts to define and strengthen the United States' relationship with the world's largest emerging economy, which has a growing influence in Asia, said Jeffrey Bader, the National Security Council's senior director for East Asian affairs.

Bader cited North Korea's nuclear weapons program, the economy, climate change, human rights and Afghanistan as among the top issues for the China swing. On human rights, Bader said Obama is likely to address "freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of religion, rule of law and, certainly, Tibet."

Obama will make clear to Chinese President Hu Jintao that he intends to meet with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, Bader said. China, which rejects Tibetan aspirations for autonomy, opposes such high-level contacts with the Dalai Lama.