News / Asia

    China Offers Closer Ties at ASEAN Summit Skipped by Obama

    China's Premier Li Keqiang delivers his opening speech at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan,  Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013.
    China's Premier Li Keqiang delivers his opening speech at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, Oct. 9, 2013.
    China has offered to improve ties with Southeast Asia, using a regional summit to compete for influence with the United States, whose President Barack Obama was notable for his absence.

    Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Brunei on Wednesday, pledging to boost Chinese investment in the region.

    Friendly message

    Mr. Li also struck a conciliatory tone on long-running maritime disputes with ASEAN members. He said Beijing believes that "a peaceful South China Sea is a blessing for all" and that rival claims to the resource-rich waters should should be resolved through talks.

    President Barack Obama had planned to meet with ASEAN leaders in Brunei but canceled his attendance to deal with domestic budgetary disputes that led to the partial shutdown of the U.S. federal government.

    In his place, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with the 10 ASEAN leaders after the group ended its talks with China's premier. Kerry apologized to the leaders for Mr. Obama's absence.

    "I assure you that these events in Washington are a moment in politics and not more than that," Kerry said.

    Providing reassurance

    The top U.S. diplomat also tried to reassure ASEAN about Mr. Obama's commitment to the decades-old U.S. relationship with Southeast Asian nations.

    Kerry said strengthening U.S.-ASEAN relations in the fields of security, economic links, and people-to-people relationships are a "critical part" of the president's goal of "rebalancing" U.S. foreign policy toward toward Asia.

    The top U.S. diplomat also met with Chinese Premier Li on the sidelines of the summit, prompting an exchange of remarks that reflected some tension between the two world powers in their outreach to ASEAN.

    US-China tension

    Mr. Li said he is sure both powers want to live together in "harmony," but repeated China's longstanding position that it is a developing nation that cannot be held to the same standards as the United States, the world's most developed country.

    Kerry replied by saying "we think you are a little more developed than you may want to say you are, but nevertheless we have the same responsibilities."

    Senior U.S. officials traveling with Kerry emphasized that he would meet every head of government who would have sat down with Mr. Obama had he made the trip. Kerry even had one additional meeting scheduled with Burmese President Thein Sein.

    Maritime disputes

    U.S. officials also said Kerry would press China to accept a long-delayed, legally binding Code of Conduct to help manage the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, where four ASEAN members have competing claims with Beijing.

    A senior State Department official told reporters en route to Brunei that Kerry would stress America's role "as an advocate for the rule of law, peaceful resolution of disputes, freedom of navigation, and the principle of unimpeded lawful commerce."

    Reporters asked ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh about progress on the Code of Conduct. In reply, he referred to recent discussions in China between ASEAN and Chinese officials.

    "The consultations will continue," he said. "And we hope that with the efforts on both sides, realizing that peace and stability in the region is necessary, not only for ASEAN but for all countries in the region including China, we will achieve tangible progress."

    China is reluctant to discuss the disputes at multinational forums such as ASEAN. Instead, it prefers dealing with each country individually, giving it a much stronger position in any negotiations.

    China's strategy

    ASEAN members Vietnam and the Philippines accuse China of using bullying tactics in the South China Sea and have formed closer military alliances with the United States as a result. Beijing has rejected the accusations.

    China also denies that it is trying to divide ASEAN. Those accusations intensified following last year's ASEAN meeting in Cambodia, where disagreements over territorial disputes kept the bloc from producing a group statement for the first time in its 45-year history.

    Hal Hill, a professor of Southeast Asian economies at the Australian National University, said Beijing partly did use a "divide and rule" strategy at last year's summit. He said many Southeast Asian countries face a tough choice when dealing with China.

    "The states adjoining China are very small, very poor countries next to a colossus, so they have to balance the importance of their relations with China, which is of course now the dominant economic and commercial power in the region, along with their attachment to ASEAN," he said.

    Hill said he expected ASEAN to form a "broadly united front" against China on the maritime disputes at this year's summit.

    Free trade

    ASEAN members also were hoping to advance talks on a proposed free trade area spanning the entire Southeast Asian region, which is home to more than 600 million people. ASEAN wants to create the common market area by 2015.

    Hill said the many different types of economies represented in ASEAN pose challenges for the creation of such a free trade area.

    "It includes free-trade Singapore along with some communist regimes like Vietnam that have a lot of trade protections," he said. "ASEAN can't move and won't move like the European Union, but I think it will send a signal that it's open for business with increasingly open frontiers within the 10 [nations]."

    Lipin reported from Washington and Herman reported from Brunei. Victor Beatie also contributed to this report.

    Steve Herman

    A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.


    Michael Lipin

    Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

    You May Like

    UN Observes International Day of Peacekeepers

    The U.N. honors 3,400 peacekeepers killed since first mission in 1948

    Video Rolling Thunder Tribute to US Military Turns into a Trump Rally

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora