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Obama Forges Closer Ties With Asean

U.S. President Barack Obama, on Thursday held a meeting with Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN leaders in Laos for the last time and reiterated U.S’ commitment to rebalancing Asia.

Obama started by addressing the long-simmering dispute in the South China Sea, making it the main agenda, as it became clear that most of the other leaders gathered in Vientiane were going to let China off with a mild rebuke, over its territorial expansion, in the resource-rich waters.

The dispute has raised fears of military confrontation between the world’s superpowers, with China determined to cement control of the strategically vital waters, despite a July verdict, that its claims have no legal basis.

The ASEAN leaders had reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation in and over-flight in the South China Sea in earlier meetings.

Obama was also expected to touch on the trade talks focusing on the U-S-led Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP during the meeting.