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What happened while Obama was in Asia? (+video)

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It seemed China’s apparent effort to have host Cambodia play bad cop, however, may have backfired: Phnom Penh was forced to backtrack on assertions that southeast Asian countries reached a “consensus” that they would not “internationalize” the South China Sea issue – seen as code for Chinese requests that nonclaimant powers such the US and Japan steer clear of the dispute. Closing the summit, Cambodia's usually voluble Prime Minister Hun Sen refused to take questions during a press conference, saying "I am exhausted after these three days."

The players

The Philippines, a US ally, said that there was no such agreement between member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and backed by Vietnam and Singapore, forced the final ASEAN communique on the issue to erase a section claiming a consensus.

There are seven claimants to parts of the oil-rich South China Sea and its islands: China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, and Taiwan.

Both the US and Japan raised the South China Sea issue in their meetings with ASEAN.

But, in an apparent softening of demands that ASEAN deal with China as a group on the issue, rather than see bilateral negotiations between China and claimant member-states, which is what China wants, the Philippines today proposed that “all claimants consider coming together to begin focusing on clarification of maritime claims.”

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