China hosts Southeast Asian ministers as it competes with US

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BEIJING (AP) — China is hosting foreign ministers from 10 Southeast Asian nations amid heightened competition between Beijing and Washington for influence in the region. Chinese state media say the meeting Tuesday in the city of Chongqing will cover issues from restoring economic exchanges badly damaged by the COVID-19 pandemic to the feasibility of creating a vaccine passport to allow freer travel among them. Beijing has been building influence with the 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, despite frictions with some over rival territorial claims in South China Sea. The U.S. expressed concerns over China’s growing presence, with a visiting official last week urging Cambodia’s leadership to maintain an independent and balanced foreign policy.

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