US-Asean summit set for February in California

WASHINGTON – 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 Wednesday.

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.

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