President Barack Obama set off on a nine-day Pacific tour that will highlight America's economic destiny in Asia and reveal its sharpening power joust with China.
Obama is set to host the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Hawaii, will celebrate 60 years of security ties with Australia and make the first visit by a US president to the East Asia summit, set for Bali next week.
A two-week interlude of foreign policy in Obama's increasingly domestically focused administration offers a symbolic contrast between struggling Europe, where America has its historic roots, and Asia which may define its future.
It will also underscore the growing competition between the United States, a Pacific power for more than half a century, and rising China.
"I think one of the messages of the trip, as well as our entire foreign policy, is that the United States is all in as it relates to the Asia Pacific region in the 21st century," said Ben Rhodes, a US deputy national security advisor.
"We're going to be making it clear over the course of the trip that the United States will continue to play the role it has throughout the last half century in being an anchor of security and stability in the region."
Rhodes also said, as the United States eyes China's drive to superpower status, that Washington would ensure that despite budget cuts at home, it has a Pacific military posture able to protect its interests and allies.
Obama, who has dubbed himself America's first "Pacific president," will seek to stress America is at a pivot point, as it leaves Iraq this year and draws down in Afghanistan and seeks to concentrate more on East Asia, aides said.
The president broke his journey to Hawaii in San Diego, where he sat courtside at a unique college basketball game on the deck of the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that sent Osama bin Laden to his underwater grave.
The marquee game between Michigan State and North Carolina was played on a hardwood floor laid on the hulking ship's flight deck, as it was moored in San Diego bay on Veterans Day.
"Some of you may know, the men and women on the Carl Vinson were part of that critical mission to bring Osama bin Laden to justice," he said.
"To all our veterans to all our men and women in uniform we say thank you," said Obama," after two fighter jets streaked over during patriotic pre-game celebrations.
Obama's journey, which comes at a time when he is politically vulnerable at home, is being billed as an effort to ensure that the United States remains a dominant player in Asia, a region that could dictate its economic future.
In Hawaii on Saturday, Obama will meet the leaders of China, Russia and Japan, and is likely to press for tougher sanctions on Iran following new revelations on its nuclear program.
The president will welcome Pacific Rim leaders to Hawaii for the group's annual summit on Sunday and is keen to lock in progress towards a multilateral trade pact known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now involving 10 nations.
After APEC, Obama will head to Australia for an overnight stay in Canberra where he will pay homage to 60 years of security ties between the allies, meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard and address parliament.
Obama is also expected to say that Washington will station Marines in the northern Australian city of Darwin, which he will also visit.
The president will travel on November 18 to Bali, Indonesia, where he will become the first US president to take part in the East Asia Summit, comprised of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, plus China, Australia, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.