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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs  29 October 2010

Asean enlists US to balance China

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Southeast Asian nations are apparently using the United States a move seen as a counterpoint to offset aggressive Chinese moves in the South China Sea.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, will formally invite the U.S. and Russia to join their annual East Asian Summit on Saturday in the Vietnamese capital.

During a stop in Hawaii en route to Hanoi, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton stressed that the U.S. would remain a major power in the Asia-Pacific region and called on China to expand cooperation with the U.S.

Southeast Asian nations have become increasingly rattled in recent months, accusing China of being a bully following a series of territorial spats on the high seas, including run-ins with Vietnam and a nasty row with Japan.

China has strongly pushed to keep territorial disputes over islands in the South China Sea out of talks held by Asean, preferring instead to deal with clashes one on one. But the smaller countries have refused to back down.

"Asean should have one voice before we venture (into) talking to other claimants," Philippine President Benigno Aquino III said, adding that he and other Southeast Asian leaders' aired concerns during a dinner Thursday centered around maintaining peace and keeping busy shipping lanes open in the South China Sea.

At another meeting in Hanoi this summer, Clinton enraged China by announcing that the U.S. has a national interest in seeing territorial disputes in the South China Sea resolved, ensuring vital shipping lanes remain open and that navigation within international waters be free for everyone.

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