Obama holds first summit in US with Southeast Asian leaders - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

Obama holds first summit in US with Southeast Asian leaders

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President Barack Obama, center, waves as he poses for a group photo with leaders of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. ASEAN's Secretary Gen President Barack Obama, center, waves as he poses for a group photo with leaders of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif., Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016. ASEAN's Secretary Gen
President Barack Obama, center, walks with leaders of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for the official photo, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. President Obama and leaders o President Barack Obama, center, walks with leaders of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, for the official photo, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016 at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. President Obama and leaders o
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong listens as left as President Barack Obama speaks at the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong listens as left as President Barack Obama speaks at the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands
President Barack Obama participates in the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The president hosted the ASEA President Barack Obama participates in the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The president hosted the ASEA
President Barack Obama participates in the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The president hosted the ASEA President Barack Obama participates in the second plenary session meeting of ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, at the Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, Calif. The president hosted the ASEA

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — President Barack Obama and leaders of Southeast Asian nations discussed regional security issues Tuesday before closing a summit called to show solidarity and U.S. seriousness about staying engaged in a region where a rising China has rattled American allies.

Obama and leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations spent the session trading their views on China's territorial claims to disputed waters of the South China Sea, moves that have sounded international alarms and heightened tensions with some association members.

The leaders also discussed counterterrorism, a growing concern in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. maintains that maritime disputes should be resolved peacefully according to international law, a stance Obama emphasized Monday in welcoming leaders of ASEAN's 10-nation bloc: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.

"Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means," Obama said, opening the first ASEAN-only summit held in the U.S. The symbolism of the meeting is likely to be more significant than any outcome.

Le Luong Minh, a Vietnamese politician and chairman of the association, said the U.S. is one of ASEAN's "important dialogue partners." He called the summit an "excellent opportunity to exchange our views" on important issues.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said ASEAN leaders hope Obama's attention and priority toward theSoutheast Asian grouping will be continued and sustained by future U.S. presidents, Malaysia's Bernama news agency reported. He said 10 ASEAN leaders acknowledged that the grouping's relationship with the U.S. was as important as its relationship with China.

The leaders concluded the summit by posing for the traditional family photo on the plush lawn outside a historic residence at Sunnylands, the storied California desert estate where the talks were held. Sunnylands is also where Obama had his first formal meeting with China's current president, Xi Jinping. As the leaderswalked off, Obama was heard to thank each one for attending.

China says it has a historical right to virtually all of the South China Sea and has built seven artificial islands, including with airstrips, to assert its sovereignty. Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim land features in these potentially resource-rich international shipping lanes.

Though not a claimant, the U.S. has spoken out against China's conduct and has angered Beijing by sailing Navy ships near some of the artificial islands in a show of support for its allies. The U.S. has argued for the maritime rights issue to be resolved peacefully and is looking for ASEAN to take a unified stance and call for the disputes to be resolved based on international law. But unity could be hard to come by; ASEAN has avoided criticizing China by name in joint statements issued at past summits.

The diverse group of countries includes governments aligned either with Washington or Beijing. Only four of its members are embroiled in disputes with China and Taiwan, leading to sometimes conflicting views on how to handle long-simmering rifts.

ASEAN nations typically tread carefully, preferring not to alienate either world power. While nations may look to the U.S. to help stand up to China's assertive behavior, they still count China as their main trading partner.

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a working dinner of the leaders on Monday night that China's role in the region is expected to grow, and that from time to time its larger presence could lead to frictions, uncertainties and anxieties, including on the South China Sea, but these issues must be managed peacefully to preserve regional stability and security, Singapore-based Channel News Asia reported.

ASEAN statements in recent years have expressed concern over the escalating conflicts and called for freedom of navigation and overflight in the disputed territories, but they have rarely gone to specifics.

The Philippines brought its territorial conflicts with China to international arbitration in early 2013 after Beijing refused to withdraw its ships from a disputed shoal under a U.S.-brokered deal. China has refused to participate, but an arbitration tribunal based in The Hague heard the case and is expected to rule this year.

Susan Rice, Obama's national security adviser, said negotiations were continuing on a potential joint statement that would cover various topics and not focus primarily on the South China Sea.

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Associated Press writer Jim Gomez in Manila, Philippines, and Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

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Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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