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US moves closer to ASEAN to offset China influence

US moves closer to ASEAN to offset China influence
Highlights

To host meet with South-East Defence Ministers Four of ASEAN members locked in row with China China influence growing in smaller ASEAN nations ...

  • To host meet with South-East Defence Ministers
  • Four of ASEAN members locked in row with China
  • China influence growing in smaller ASEAN nations
  • China has FTA with ASEANA
  • US fears it may be left out on trade front
Singapore (AFP): The United States on Saturday offered to host a meeting with South-East Asian defence ministers in Hawaii next year, stepping up its efforts to counter growing Chinese influence in the region. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a security forum in Singapore that he will first meet his counterparts from the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) at a regional meeting in Brunei this year. "This weekend, in my meetings here in Singapore, I am extending an invitation to ASEAN defence ministers to meet together next year in Hawaii," the Pentagon chief said. Four of ASEAN's 10 member states � Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam � as well as Taiwan are locked in territorial disputes with China in the South China Sea. Smaller ASEAN member countries like Laos and Cambodia have come under increasing Chinese economic and political influence, partly as a result of foreign aid from Beijing. China has a free-trade agreement with ASEAN and is a key player in efforts to widen the pact to include other regional players like Japan, South Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand.
asean
Washington risks being left out on the trade front, analysts have said. Hagel said that the United States would live up to its promise and deploy more cutting-edge military technology in Asia and the Pacific, even in an age of austerity. Speaking a week before a summit meeting in California between President Barack Obama and China's new leader, Xi Jinping, Hagel sought to reassure Washington's nervous Asian allies - who are concerned about China's expanding naval activities - that the United States would maintain its presence in the region. Overall, he said, the United States would keep its "decisive military edge," an oblique but distinct reference to US military superiority. China has announced an 11.2 percent increase in military spending this year, part of its rapid military modernization.
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