PHUKET, Thailand, July 22 (Xinhua) -- The United States signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in Southeast Asia with member states of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) here Wednesday in what is seen as its return to the "critically important" region.
"The United States is back in Southeast Asia," said U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a press briefing before signing the treaty on behalf of her nation.
The TAC, a peace treaty, was signed in 1976. It is the ASEAN's founding non-aggression pact aimed at promoting regional stability. It was amended Dec. 15, 1987 by a protocol to open the document for accession by states outside Southeast Asia.
"This treaty seals our commitment to work in partnership with the nations of ASEAN to advance the interest and values we share," Clinton said.
The U.S. secretary of state said she and U.S. President Barack Obama believed that Southeast Asia is vital to global progress, peace and prosperity. "Southeast Asia and ASEAN are critically important to our future," she added.
ASEAN's ten members host nearly 600 million people, including two of U.S.'s treaty allies. The region is the sixth largest export market of the U.S.
"ASEAN is a region of great diversity where people of different backgrounds, religions and every other diversities of the human experience are working to build a community," Clinton said.
The Secretary of States also announced Wednesday that U.S. intended to open a U.S. mission to ASEAN, headed by ambassador in Jakarta, in the very near future.
"We warmly welcomed the impending accession by the United States of America to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia as a strong signal of its commitment to peace and security in the region," said a joint communique issued Monday after the ASEAN ministers' meeting.
The ASEAN groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.