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Obama calls for calm on South China Sea

US leader balances ties with China, Asian allies

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  • Online news: Asia
  • Writer: ACHARA ASHAYAGACHAT with Agency reports
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PHNOM PENH: US President Barack Obama has urged Asian leaders to rein in tensions in the South China Sea and other disputed territories but stopped short of firmly backing allies Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam in their disputes with China. 

Mr Obama's comments at the regional summit meeting illustrate how he intends to manage Sino-US ties that have become increasingly fraught across a range of issues, including trade, commercial espionage and the territorial disputes between Beijing and Washington's Asian allies."President Obama's message is there needs to be a reduction of the tensions," Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said after the East Asia Summit in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh. Wen in Bangkok: China PM met with Obama Pan-Asia trade talks: Tense negotiations agreed US-Asean pact: E3 agreement signed Also present at the summit were leaders from China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and the 10 members of Asean."There is no reason to risk any potential escalation, particularly when you have two of the world's largest economies - China and Japan - associated with some of those disputes," he said.That diplomatic response came at the end of a three-day trip by Mr Obama to longtime US ally Thailand, new friend Myanmar and China ally Cambodia in a visit that underlined the expansion of US military and economic interests in Asia under last year's so-called "pivot" from conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.Mr Obama's attention was divided as he tried to stay on top of the unfolding crisis in Gaza. He dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton from the summit to the Middle East for a round of troubleshooting talks in Israel, the West Bank and Egypt.Beijing claims the South China Sea as its territory based on historical records, putting it up against Vietnam, the Philippines and other claimant nations.The area is thought to hold vast, untapped oil and natural gas reserves.The Philippines, which calls the maritime area the Western Philippines Sea, sent a letter of protest Tuesday to Cambodia after the summit hosts said Southeast Asian leaders had agreed not to internationalise the row over the South China Sea and to confine talks to between Asean and China - a claim disputed by Philippine President Benigno Aquino.A stern-faced Philippine Foreign Minister Albert del Rosario said his delegation had been shocked when a Cambodian official told a news conference that Asean leaders had reached a consensus at their summit on Sunday. "Consensus means everybody. I was there, the president [Mr Aquino] was there and we're saying we're not with it because there's no consensus," he told reporters."How can they say there's consensus when we're saying...

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