United States President Barack Obama will host the ASEAN leaders at the South California retreat of Sunnylands for a summit early in 2016, as a part of his Asia policy.

The leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN have accepted President Obama’s invitation to take part at the Rancho Mirage, California summit. The invitation has been extended to all of the leaders of the ten nations association the previous month during Obama’s visit to Asia.

According to Reuters, Myles Caggins, a spokesman for the White House’s National Security Council said “The President is pleased the leaders have accepted his invitation to gather at Sunnylands, in early 2016.” Caggins did not specify the exact date of the summit, but according to Japan’s Kyodo news agency, an ASEAN official source said the summit is expected to take place on the 15th and 16th of February. Diplomats from two ASEAN countries have confirmed the dates, but the information is yet to be confirmed.

President Obama is shifting toward a more comprehensive policy and relations with the Asian countries, especially in time when there is an assertive behavior demonstrated by China and its pursuit of territorial claims in the South China Sea. Also, the President is willing to promote the ASEAN unity because of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement in which four ASEAN members are part of, including Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia.

The choice of the Rancho Mirage resort is rather symbolic because in 2013 President Barack Obama met with Chinese President Xi Jinping when they were trying to find new ways to improve the relations between the two countries, but made very little improvement afterwards.

The Pivot to Asia policy is one of the Obama administration’s central foreign policy initiatives that are aimed to balance the United States interests from Europe and the Middle East and focus them towards East Asia.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations was established in 1967 in Thailand as a political and economic organization. It includes Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.

President Obama has rejected accusations that the turmoil in the Middle East is causing the United States to lose focus from improving relationships with countries from East Asia. The U.S.-ASEAN summit is expected to revolve around issues concerning economic integration, climate change, maritime cooperation, women’s rights and the South China Sea dispute.


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