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Asean leaders aim to patch maritime rifts

Published on Apr 22, 2013 11:36 AM

BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN (AFP) - South-east Asian leaders will focus on rebuilding unity when they meet in Brunei this week after unprecedented rifts over how to handle territorial disputes with an assertive China.

The summit of the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (Asean) convenes against the backdrop of China's increasingly aggressive stance in claiming sovereignty over nearly all of the resource-rich South China Sea.

Asean members Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea, which lies at the heart of the region.

But a push last year by the Philippines and Vietnam for Asean to join forces and stand up to China crumbled amid resistance from Cambodia, a close Chinese ally that held the rotating chair of the bloc in 2012.

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