Obama Attends East Asia Summit Amid Sea Feud

China at center of multiple territorial disputes

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 20, 2012 7:05 AM CST

(Newser) – President Obama is in Cambodia today, meeting with East Asian leaders amid a contentious territorial dispute over the South China Sea. Speaking publicly, neither Obama nor Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao responded to reporters' shouted questions about the tensions, the BBC reports. Instead, Obama referred to a "cooperative and constructive approach" to relations between the US and China, though he cited a need for "clear rules of the road" on trade.

But the summit (which joins the 10 ASEAN countries with eight other nations, including China and the US) was expected to focus on the territorial issues. To wit, the AP reports that behind closed doors, the Chinese and Philippine leaders pressed their territorial claims while others called for restraint. Those two countries, along with Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei, all have claims to a portion of the South China Sea, while China and Japan disagree over control of islands in the East China Sea. Trade talks between the East Asian countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, were expected to be another focus of the summit.

President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, during the East Asia Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 20,  2012.
President Obama meets with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, right, during the East Asia Summit at the Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2012.   (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
President Obama joins a group photo with, from left, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, and China's PM Wen Jiabao.
President Obama joins a group photo with, from left, Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, Brunei's Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Cambodia's PM Hun Sen, and China's PM Wen Jiabao.   (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
President Obama talks with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, center, as China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao looks on while walking to the gala dinner in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.
President Obama talks with New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key, center, as China's Prime Minister Wen Jiabao looks on while walking to the gala dinner in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012.   (AP Photo/Apichart Weerawong)
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