ASEAN considers summit with US

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations says it’s considering a summit meeting with the United States in March.
Foreign ministers from the ASEAN countries discussed the proposal from the US side at a two-day meeting in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh told a news conference that they welcome the invitation and will refer the matter to national leaders for a final decision.

At last year’s summit between ASEAN and the US, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien was the top US official. That stood in contrast to past summits, when the US was represented by the president, vice president or secretary of state.

Observers say the absence of top leaders could undermine the US presence in the region.

The ministers also discussed the South China Sea. In a statement, they expressed concern that land reclamation and serious incidents may undermine peace, security and stability in the region.

The comments come as Indonesian authorities say Chinese boats escorted by coast guard ships were recently spotted within Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

Beijing claims jurisdiction over almost the entire South China Sea.
Its increasing presence has become a source of contention with other countries that have competing claims in the disputed waters.

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