US President Barack Obama makes opening remarks at a gathering with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states leaders at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage, California February 15, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]
Chinese observers have estimated that US President Barack Obama’s administration is likely to stay tough on the South China Sea issue and pose more challenges to China’s lawful maritime interests.
They made the comments as Obama voiced his ambition in making Asia-Pacific nations “play by the same rules” when starting a two-day gathering with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states leaders at the Sunnylands Center in California on Monday.
Zhong Feiteng, an expert on Asia-Pacific affairs at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, noted that tension in the South China Sea is “still rising”.
The US arranged the gathering as it believes its engagement in the maritime problems will receive a boost to its legitimacy if ASEAN offers support or silent approval, Zhong said.
“Since there are differing positions regarding the South China Sea issue within ASEAN, Washington hopes to coordinate such positions in order to counterbalance China and offset China’s influence,” Zhong said.