Obama tackles South China Sea dispute in U.S.-ASEAN Summit

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United States President Barack Obama met with ASEAN leaders in California to talk about pressing issues in Southeast Asia.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — U.S. President Barack Obama reiterated the importance of peacefully resolving the maritime dispute in the South China Sea in his meeting with the leaders of the Association of the South East Asian (ASEAN).

Economic issues and the maritime dispute topped the discussion on day one of the U.S. special summit in Sunnylands, California.

Also read: President Aquino flies to US for US-ASEAN leaders’ conference

This is the first time such a meeting is taking place on U.S. soil.

President Benigno Aquino III was welcomed by Obama as soon as he arrived at Camp David of the West in Sunnylands estate — the summit venue.

In his opening speech, Obama urged ASEAN leaders to form a common stance on issues affecting regional order, specifically maritime disputes in the South China Sea.

"Here at this summit, we can advance our shared vision of a regional order where international rules and norms, including freedom of navigation, are upheld and where disputes are resolved through peaceful, legal means," said Obama.

Also read: Southeast Asia, 'strategically important' for U.S. rebalance to Asia

Obama has championed a foreign policy pivot to Asia and seeks to present the U.S. as a pacific power.

Obama urged ASEAN leaders to stay vigilant on counter-terrorism.

On Monday night (Tuesday, February 16 PHT), President Aquino attended a working dinner where the regional strategic landscape was discussed. The agenda of the meeting on Wednesday are counter-terrorism and combating climate change.

After the Southern California summit, Aquino will visit Los Angeles, where he is meeting with officials of three major companies including Walt Disney. He will speak before the Loas Angeles World Affairs Council and meet with the Filipino-American community before flying back to Manila.