09/06/2016, 20.16
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Vientiane summit opens amid diplomatic incidents and controversies

ASEAN’s annual meeting brings together its ten members plus China, South Korea, Japan and the United States. Trade, South China Sea and human rights are on the table. Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte insults Obama a day before the summit. US president cancels meeting with his Filipino counterpart.

Vientiane (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The ten-member Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus representatives of China, South Korea, Japan and the United States, began the organisation’s summit today with a diplomatic incident.

On the eve of the summit, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte insulted US President Barack Obama, calling him a "son of ..." for saying that he would raise the issue of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

As a result, the US leader cancelled a scheduled bilateral meeting with Duterte today. Instead, he met with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. The two leaders are likely to discuss North Korea’s latest provocation: the launch of three rockets in the Sea of ​​Japan.

Within a hours, the Filipino president expressed regret for his words. "Our primary intention is to chart an independent foreign policy while promoting closer ties with all nations, especially the U.S., with which we have a long standing partnership," he said in a statement.

Despite the apology, it seems clear that Duterte wants to move away from Washington hoping to improve relations with Beijing, hence his decision not to raise the issue of the South China Sea at the summit in Vientiane, but to discuss it only face-to-face with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

As he landed in Laos yesterday, Barack Obama became the first sitting president to visit that country.

After a meeting with his counterpart Bounnhang Vorachit, the US president today announced a three-year, US$ 90 million-contribution to Laotian security and for clearing unexploded bombs.

In the 1960s and 1970s, US forces dropped 2.2 million bombs on the country and about one-third are still undetonated. For Obama, the US had a “moral duty” to help resolve the problem.

Obama is expected to make the case for the ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a key component of his Asian policy. The trade agreement involves 12 nations that represent 40 per cent of the world economy, but it has been criticised in the United States as a threat to American jobs.

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