US prepares to host ASEAN summit

13 February 2016
US prepares to host ASEAN summit
US stresses importance of engagement with ASEAN - US President Barack Obama (C) chats with Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak (2-L), China Premiere Li Keqiang (L), Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah (2-R), and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (R), as theyr pose for photograph at the 10th East Asia Summit during the 27th ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 22 November 2015. Photo: Fazry Ismail/EPA

US President Barack Obama will host leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Rancho Mirage, California on February 15 and 16, the White House said.
Obama's office dubbed the meeting, the first hosted by a US president with the 10 ASEAN leaders, "unprecedented" and said it would further his aim of "rebalancing" US foreign policy towards Asia.
"This summit will provide leaders a forum to strengthen cooperation under the new US-ASEAN strategic partnership, launched in November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, on political, security, and economic issues," it said.
Obama had announced plans for the summit in Kuala Lumpur last month, but the White House statement put a date on the meeting.
Hawaii-born Obama took office hoping to be the "Pacific president," pivoting the focus of American overseas ties towards Asia and Pacific trade and security.
In this he has often been frustrated, however, by the need to deal with ongoing US military or diplomatic involvement in the conflicts in Afghanistan, Ukraine and the Arab world.
The summit comes as Washington is striving to show its commitment to its Asian allies at a time when great power rival China is flexing its muscles in maritime territorial disputes.
ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Its 10 member countries are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Last year, ASEAN leaders created the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The aim is to increase trade, investment and economic ties among the 10 nations.
ASEAN leaders will meet with President Obama at the 80-hectare Sunnylands estate in California. The estate was once the home of a billionaire publisher. President Obama hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping there in 2013.
President Obama personally invited all the ASEAN leaders to Sunnylands when he attended the ASEAN summit last November in Malaysia.
The summit participants will address key regional security and trade issues. They are also expected to discuss climate change and human trafficking.