U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry emphasizes U.S. commitment to the ASEAN region during summit meetings in Brunei. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with his Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) counterparts on Wednesday (October 9) in Brunei for the first ASEAN-U.S. Summit. Kerry is standing in for U.S. President Barack Obama who had to cancel his Asia tour amid the partial U.S. government shutdown. Kerry emphasized that Obama's absence doesn't mean he is not committed to the ASEAN region. "But I assure you, that these events in Washington are a moment of politics and not more than that. The partnership that we share with ASEAN remains a top priority for the Obama administration. The ties among our nations, I think all of you know this from the engagement that we have on individual basis with you as well as collectively through ASEAN, that those ties have been strong for decades now. And we know strengthening those ties on security issues, on economic issues and more on our people-to-people relationships are a critical part of President Obama's rebalance to Asia. That rebalance is a commitment, it's there to stay," Kerry said. According to a senior U.S. official, Kerry is expected to push the Southeast Asian leaders and China to discuss the South China Sea dispute despite Beijing's reluctance to address the issue at the summit meetings and preferring to settle disputes in the South China Sea through one-to-one negotiations with individual claimants. The conflicting claims over the South China Sea pit an increasingly assertive Beijing against smaller Asian nations that look to support from the United States. The row is one of the region's biggest flashpoints amid China's military build-up and the U.S. strategic "pivot" back to Asia signalled by the Obama administration in 2011. China claims almost the entire oil and gas-rich South China Sea, overlapping with claims from Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam. Washington says it is officially neutral but has put pressure on Beijing and other claimants to end the dispute through talks. ASEAN is made up of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. It groups more than 600 million people from disparate economic and political systems.