President Obama hosts summit with 10 Southeast Asian leaders

Southeast Asian Politics
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The leaders of 10 ASEAN countries and the US pose for a family photo at their first summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on November 21, 2015.
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
T he leaders of the US and 10 southeast Asian countries will meet on Monday in Sunnybrook, California, for the opening session of a two-day summit that will cover issues ranging from a free trade agreement to the South China Sea dispute. The summit comes at a time of unprecedented close ties between the Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the US, a key element of President Barack Obama's refocusing of US foreign policy away from the conflicts in the Middle East. The US-ASEAN relationship evolved to a new level in November 2015  at their first summit in Kuala Lumpur, where a strategic partnership aimed at deepening cooperation in economic and security matters was agreed.
ASEAN comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The association does not interfere in its members' domestic politics and takes a consensus-based approach to decisions.
The summit is widely seen as part of an ongoing for battle for regional influence between the US, which has dominated the Western Pacific since the end of World War II, and China, which in recent years has asserted claims to the South China Sea.
The US is ASEAN's third-largest trading partner; their trade was valued at $241.7 billion in 2013. ASEAN is also China's third-largest export market.
The  Philippines and Vietnam are vocal opponents of China's claim to 80% of the South China Sea. Brunei and Malaysia also contest China's claim, but have adopted a cautious approach to the dispute.
Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand have been keen to maintain strategic autonomy, while Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar avoid any positions that put them at odds with China.
 Singaporean broadcaster Channel NewsAsia has the details.
 The summit is expected to send out a message of unity, Deutsche Welle reports.
 The Diplomat magazine analyses the complex relationships between ASEAN members and the US and China.
 The Financial Times examines all 10 ASEAN members from the perspective of US interests.
China's state Xinhua news agency predicts the summit will not yield substantial results.
by Tom Hussain
15 February 2016 - last edited 15 February 2016

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