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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, January 22, 2018

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Obama to meet with Asean leaders at Sunnylands summit

Stronger partnership with Asia to a high point

Share on Facebook February 15, 2016, Reporter : Big News Network, Reader : 407

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RANCHO MIRAGE, California - President Barack Obama will meet the leaders of the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Asia's most important regional grouping, at a summit beginning here Monday, taking the US' efforts to forge a stronger partnership with Asia to a high point.> Big News Network

The event, the first-ever US-Asean summit on American soil, will see the leaders hold two days of talks on key security and strategic issues, including territorial disputes in the South China Sea, combating the Islamic State terror group and North Korea's nuclear programme and ballistic missile development, among other issues.

Trade, economy and counter-terrorism are also to be discussed. An investment conference will take place in San Francisco on Wednesday. Asean is the fourth largest export market for US goods.

China's island-building activities in the South China Sea will be a focal point of the talks. Beijing maintains it has no hostile intent in the reefs that it has reclaimed but Washington has mounted navigation patrols there in recent months to show that American vessels can sail in international waters any time they desire.

Obama is likely to urge the Asean to present a unified stance against China's claims on most of the sea.

The summit will kick off with a high-level session on innovation and entrepreneurship. This will be followed by a working dinner to discuss the regional strategic outlook, before another high-level session on peace, prosperity and security in the region the next morning.

The summit is being held at Sunnylands, the sprawling Annenberg family estate in the middle of the California desert, where Obama had entertained Chinese President Xi Jinping in June 2013.

The estate boasts 80 hectares of property, 22 guest rooms, 11 lakes and a 50-seat theatre.

"We've done a lot of work with Asean over the last seven years, and we want to close strong," said Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes.

"Asean is of enormous interest to the United States," said Rhodes.

"The 10 Asean nations together represent the world's seventh largest economy. They are at the nexus of critical security issues, whether it's maritime security, counterterrorism, or counter-piracy."

The White House wants to ensure that Obama's successor is encouraged to continue the US foreign policy tilt towards Asia.

Rhodes said: "We want to make sure that on all the different initiatives that we've had with Asean, that we know how we're going to get from here to the end of the year, or to the end of the Presidency, and so this is a chance to set that work plan.

"Some of that will be things that we want to finish in our administration but some of that will be wanting to leave for the next administration a good platform of deeper engagement with Asean."

On the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, Rhodes said: "Our view is the more Asean is able to speak with one voice on this, the better. That, you know, if this is seen as only an issue of concern to the claimants, or this is seen - as even different claimants have different views on how this should be addressed - beyond simply their territorial claim, we think (it will) make it harder to resolve the issue in the region."

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