China looms over US-ASEAN summit

US President Barack Obama said Southeast Asia had increasing sway on the world stage, at a time of flaring regional tensions over maritime territorial disputes with a rising China.

Last Updated: Sep 25, 2010, 20:55 PM IST

New York: US President Barack Obama said
Southeast Asia had increasing sway on the world stage, at a
time of flaring regional tensions over maritime territorial
disputes with a rising China.

At a New York summit, Obama said the 10-member
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) had the
potential for true world leadership, pressing home his plan of
rebuilding US power in the dynamic region.

Both sides agreed on the importance of "peaceful
resolution of disputes" and "freedom of navigation" including
in the South China Sea, a reference to tensions between
several ASEAN members and Beijing over territorial claims.

The summit also took place at a time of aggravated
Chinese tensions with traditional rival and cornerstone
US-ally Japan over a separate territorial dispute in the East
China Sea.

China had warned the United States ahead of the summit
between ASEAN and Washington not to get involved in the row
over the potentially resource-rich Spratly and Paracel islands
in the South China Sea which Beijing claims.

However, ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam,
Malaysia, Brunei, plus non-member Taiwan have competing
claims.

There was no mention in a US statement on the talks, nor
a joint communique of a call made by US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton in July for multilateral talks on regional
security rows -- an idea China opposes.

Opening the talks, Obama made clear he saw Asia as a
vital plank of his foreign policy.

"As president, I`ve... made it clear that the United
States intends to play a leadership role in Asia," Obama said.

"So we`ve strengthened old alliances, we`ve deepened new
partnerships, as we are doing with China, and we`ve reengaged
with regional organisations, including ASEAN," Obama said at
the summit at the Waldorf Astoria hotel.

Obama also confirmed he would attend the East Asia
summit next year in Jakarta as he presses home a strategy of
enhancing US influence in the dynamic region, which he
believes has been neglected by recent American policy.

"ASEAN countries are increasingly playing a leadership
role in the region. ASEAN itself has the potential to be a
very positive force in global affairs," Obama said.

ASEAN includes Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos,
Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and
Vietnam. The East Asia summit groups ASEAN with Australia,
China, India, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

PTI