U.S. President Barack Obama returned Sunday from a nine-day tour of Asian nations, highlighted by his one-on-one meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.
White House officials say their meeting Saturday, on the Indonesian resort island of Bali, focused on economic issues, including the free flow of commerce in the South China Sea. Wen warned against outside interference in resolving the long-standing dispute over the sea's territorial claims.
Several Asian nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as China, have claims to parts of the South China Sea's shipping lanes.
The Chinese leader's comments were seen as suggesting that the United States stay out of the dispute.
Obama is now facing domestic economic issues with time running out for an agreement between Republicans and Democrats in Congress on ways to reduce the federal deficit by $1.2 trillion.
Members of a special bi-partisan congressional committee saddled with reaching an accord spoke Sunday about a continuing deadlock over cutting social programs and raising taxes. The so-called "supercommittee" was formed in August when the Senate and the House of Representatives were unable to resolve the dispute, bringing the U.S. economy to the brink of default and reducing the country's credit rating for the first time in history.
Although Obama is not involved in the committee's efforts, he has called on the panel to "do its job."
The deadline for the committee to come up with a plan is Wednesday.
A chief U.S. economist, Mark Zandi of Moodys Analytics, suggests there will not be much reaction by the financial markets to the anticipated failure of the committee to reach agreement because, he says, expectations have always been low. But he says a long-term failure by the United States to confront its debt problem would shatter investor confidence.
Some information for this report was provided by Reuters.