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Obama Calls For Regional Code Of Conduct At East Asian Summit



PHNOM PENH – President Barack Obama participated as a special guest Tuesday at a key regional summit in Asia that has been marked by continuing territorial disputes over the South China Sea, reports Sky News.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Plus Three summit in Cambodia is part of Obama's three-country tour of Asia, which also included Monday's historical visit to Burma.

The issues being discussed at the ASEAN summit include free trade agreements, security and human rights in the region. But the talks have been overshadowed by tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The 10-member ASEAN includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) is a forum including China, Japan and South Korea.

According to the BBC, China claims a stretch of water in the South China Sea, which includes areas that Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei consider their own.

Tensions have been high in recent months amid stand-offs and minor clashes around disputed shoals and islands. The dispute has hampered regional efforts to foster economic co-operation.

On Monday, Philippine President Benigno Aquino III asked APT members to “keep avenues for positive dialogue open,” so that “unnecessary disruptions in our growth are avoided,” reported the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“In an increasingly interconnected world, it is my hope that our countries continue to explore opportunities to cooperate and to strengthen our linkages to respect and reasonability with an eye on the fulfillment of our shared aspirations for humanity,” said Aquino. 

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Cambodia, a close ally of China, said that ASEAN had agreed not to "internationalize" the territorial disputes, supporting China’s stand they should not be discussed at multilateral events.

Obama, who is the first sitting U.S. president to visit Cambodia, is expected to voice concerns during the summit over the disputes. The U.S. called for the inclusion of a Regional Code of Conduct to manage the South China Sea competing claims, according to a White House communiqué

Click here for photos of President Obama yawning his way through the summit.

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