Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei — The possibility of a U.S. debt default emerged as a major issue at the annual East Asia summit in Brunei, even as Secretary of State John Kerry sought to reassure Asian leaders that President Obama was committed to ending the political stalemate in Washington, according to an AFP report.
Obama was absent from the summit due to the current U.S. government shutdown.
China, the largest foreign holder of U.S. Treasury bonds worth some $1.28 trillion, expressed “concern about Washington’s debt-ceiling problem”.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang brought up the issue in talks with Kerry Wednesday, according to China’s official news agency.
A U.S. spokesman confirmed that the issue was discussed, but added that Li had vowed continued Chinese investment in the U.S. economy.
“Secretary Kerry made clear that this is a moment in Washington politics and reaffirmed the president’s commitment to resolving the issue,” said the U.S. official.
The U.S. and China pledged to continue the “close economic working relationship”.
Kerry spoke of the United States’ “continued commitment to the region” and gave verbal support to its Asian allies wary of China’s territorial ambitions.
China sought to allay the fears of Southeast Asian nations concerned about its claims to most of the South China Sea, calling for peace in the sea and expanded trade with the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).
The Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Brunei all have competing claims to parts of the sea, and the summit saw no real breakthrough on the issue.
Myanmar President Thein Sein took the ceremonial gavel as his nation formally took over the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN. It will host next year’s ASEAN and East Asia summits.
Though the former pariah state has won international praise for its recent reforms, some critics say it is too early to give Myanmar the chairmanship, given ongoing human rights concerns in the nation. Image/AFP Photo/Rosian Rahman