China and its Southeast Asian neighbours will attempt to overcome maritime tensions and inject fresh momentum into regional free-trade initiatives at two days of meetings in the oil-rich sultanate of Brunei.

The talks -- which include Southeast Asian nations, China, Japan, South Korea and the United States -- come on the heels of an Asia-Pacific summit in Bali overshadowed by Obama's no-show.

The US president was forced to skip the back-to-back meetings because of deepening political deadlock in Washington that has left his so-called diplomatic "pivot" towards Asia in doubt.

On Tuesday Obama insisted his absence would not hurt the US role in Asia, saying he expected no "lasting damage", but admitted China may have been happy he cancelled.

It is now up to his top diplomat John Kerry to show Washington's support for its Asian allies in the face of Beijing's uncompromising territorial claims to areas including most of the South China Sea.

Read more at The Bangkok Post

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