Leader Aung San Suu Kyi is due to attend the Singapore meetings this week while Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, attending his first multilateral summit since returning to power in May, has served notice he has lost faith in the Nobel peace laureate over the issue.
- The annual gathering of Southeast Asian leaders began Tuesday with a warning from the host, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, about threats against global rules that underpin world stability and economic growth.
"It is now that we must continue to expand our intra-trade and deepen the economic integration within ASEAN", he said.
"This is the first time the U.S. has indicated it believes the YJ-12s and HQ-9s China deployed to Spratlys in May are still there, not just a temporary deployment for exercises", Gregory Poling, director of Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), said on Twitter.
At the same time, he expressed concern that the rise of trade protectionism, resurgent nationalistic movements and inward-looking policies seems to be slowly taking place within the 10-member regional grouping.
A gala dinner will cap off the day of the leaders.
The Asean-China free trade agreement was given an upgrade in 2015, and negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) which China and Asean are members of, are "close to the finishing line".
China hoped to have the meat of the deal - whose members include Japan, India and Southeast Asian nations - done by the end of this year as ballast to USA tariffs and increasingly pugnacious rhetoric on trade. "We are willing to negotiate with all sides to push ahead with free trade internationally, and we're also willing to discuss a fairer system".
Nine killed, 35 missing in California wildfire; Malibu threatened
When the order came to evacuate, it was like the entire town of 27,000 residents chose to leave at once, they said. Another 35 people had been reported missing and three firefighters had been injured.
Watch a wildfire nip at a highway in surreal video from California
Since starting on November 8th, it has caused at least 42 deaths, burned over 125,000 acres, and destroyed over 6,500 buildings. As the fires in California continue to rage, Lady Gaga took a moment to visit those forced to evacuate their homes.
Southern California fires force evacuation of Malibu
Butte County Sheriff's Office said an evacuation ordered had been issued for the small communities of Stirling City and Inskip. In Southern California , a pair of wildfires forced the evacuation of tens of thousands, including the city of Malibu.
The draft of a statement to be issued by RCEP nations later in the week, which was reviewed by Reuters, said the group would instruct "ministers and negotiators to work toward the full conclusion of the RCEP negotiations in 2019".
Economic ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on Thursday signed an agreement to facilitate cross-border e-commerce transactions within the region.
Addressing a business forum in the city state, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang said China hoped to conclude the RCEP negotiations next year, adding that the deal would cover half the world's population and account for more than a third of its GDP.
Moon also plans to host a separate summit between Korea and the Mekong River countries of Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand.
"In practice, China now has the capability to deny the Philippines access in the air or at sea to the islands and reefs it claims", he said.
"The future lies in RCEP", Indian trade minister Suresh Prabhu told reporters, but urged a cautious and patient approach to talks to ensure "every country will benefit from it".
The Philippines earlier was one of the most vocal critics of China's assertive moves in the disputed waters, where it has built up military installations and other facilities.