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With China or without?

ASEAN leaders wary about Indo-Pacific cooperation plans

| China
China's aircraft carrier Liaoning at sea. ASEAN leaders grapple with managing Beijing's influence in the Indo-Pacific.   © Reuters

When Southeast Asian leaders gathered for a recent summit with Australia in Sydney, many of their diplomats had a question for their hosts in private. What, precisely, is the meaning of the concept of the Indo-Pacific?

The very fact that leading proponents of this newish term need to explain it shows that its meaning is not immediately obvious. The slight edge in the questions from the diplomats attending the first-ever meeting of Australia and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in March also signifies something else -- that Southeast Asians remain deeply wary of the concept.

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