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US Seeks 'Leadership Role' in Asia: Obama

President Barack Obama, center, is joined for a photo with ASEAN leaders, from left, Lao President Choummaly Sayasone, Vietnam Priesident Nguyen Minh Triet, Philippines President Benigno Aquino III, and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Raza, before a lunche

In his meeting with Asean leaders in New York last week, President Barack Obama vowed to deepen ties with the 10 Southeast Asian nations, including Cambodia.

“The United States intends to play a leadership role in Asia,” Obama said during the first US-Asean Summit on Friday. “So we've strengthened old alliances; we've deepened new partnerships, as we are doing with China; and we've reengaged with regional organizations, including Asean.”

Obama said the US is focusing on economic trade and growth with Asean—a bloc of about 600 million people.

“As a Pacific nation, the United States has an enormous stake in the people and the future of Asia,” he said. “The region is home to some of our largest trading partners and buys many of our exports, supporting millions of American jobs. We need partnerships with Asian nations to meet the challenges of growing our economy, preventing proliferation and addressing climate change.”

The US also needs to bolster its political and security cooperation with Asean, he said.

Analysts say Asean is increasingly playing a leadership role in Asia and has the potential to be a positive force in global economics. But China has had heavy influence here for a long time, and the US has some catching up to do.

Last week's meetings, among Asean leaders including Prime Minister Hun Sen, came as tensions brewed between China and Japan over disputed areas in the South China Sea. Some Asean countries have similar disputes.