(Inserts dropped word "said" in sixth paragraph)
By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, March 12 Not everybody can say they
met with the president of the United States. And hardly anybody
can say they piloted their own 747 airliner halfway around the
world to get to the meeting.
So it was noteworthy that the Sultan of Brunei Hassanal
Bolkiah, known for his vast oil wealth, sat down for talks with
President Barack Obama in the Oval Office on Tuesday.
"His Majesty himself has led his country for 40 years now
and he's gone through nine U.S. presidents. I won't ask him
which one was his favorite," quipped Obama.
In a picture-taking session after their talks and before a
White House lunch, Obama said he looked forward to attending an
Association of South East Asian nations summit in October and
expected issues like trade, energy and climate change to come up
Brunei is a tiny Southeast Asian country nestled on the
north coast of Borneo in the South China Sea. China's
sovereignty claim over a large area of the South China Sea has
set it against Vietnam and the Philippines as the three
countries race to tap possibly huge oil reserves. Malaysia and
Brunei, also members of ASEAN, as well as Taiwan also claim
parts of the sea.
"Obviously there have been a lot of tensions in the region
around maritime issues and His Majesty has shown great
leadership in trying to bring the countries together to make
sure everybody is abiding by the basic precepts of rule of law
and international standards so that conflicts can be resolved
peacefully and respectfully," Obama said.
Reading from a statement, the sultan, 66, said he looked
forward to welcoming Obama to the Brunei summit.
"He got here yesterday and flew in his own 747, meaning he
actually piloted it himself," said Obama. "I think he's probably
the only head of state who flies a 747 himself. So in case Air
Force One pilots have problems, we know who to consult."
(Reporting By Steve Holland and Roberta Rampton. Editing by