Washington: President Barack Obama hosts leaders of the South East nations in the US next week as part of his Asia-Pacific rebalance strategy during which critical security issues including maritime will be discussed amid flexing of muscles by China over the South China Sea issue.
"There are a number of critical security issues that will be discussed. One of those is maritime security, including the situation in the South China Sea (SCS)," White House Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told reporters in a conference call.
"And so this will be an opportunity for the leaders to discuss some of the recent events that have taken place in the South China Sea, including the test flights at the newly constructed runway in Fiery Cross Reef," he said.
During the two-day summit being held for the first time in Palm Springs in California beginning 15 February, the US will underscore the importance of resolving any territorial disputes consistent with international norms and international law.
Being held in the backdrop of an assertive China, some of whose actions in the recent past have left several nations in the region worried about their security, White House officials on Tuesday said the US-ASEAN summit would discuss those issues as well.
"We will continue to underscore the principle that these issues have to be resolved consistent with international norms and not through bigger nations bullying smaller ones," Rhodes said.
He said the summit is a truly unique and historic occurrence with President Obama hosting these leaders in a standalone US-ASEAN Summit in the United States.
"It is central to the President's broader strategy of rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region, which he has pursued since he took office," Rhodes said.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is of enormous interest to the US, he said, adding that the 10 nations — Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — together represent the world's seventh largest economy.
They are at the nexus of critical security issues, whether it is maritime security, counterterrorism, or counter-piracy. And their efforts are essential to combating the threat of climate change, he said.