Security and geopolitical issues dominated talks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation held in Manila, Philippines, on Tuesday. U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines’ flagship navy vessel, as well as the announcement of a US$250 million (approx. AU$352 million) cooperation for strengthening the country’s maritime capability, underlined an early challenge to China’s intentions to keep talks over the South China Sea from the agenda of the meet.

China’s territorial claim over almost the whole of South China Sea faces strong disputes from other neighbouring countries like the Philippines, Malaysia and Vietnam. All of these countries have been able to nurture strong security cooperation with the United States.

Shortly after arriving in Manila, Obama toured the Philippines’ largest warship, BRP Gregorio del Pilar, which was previously owned by the U.S.

“We have a treaty obligation, an ironclad commitment to the defence of our ally, the Philippines. You can count on the United States,” Obama said. “My visit here underscores our shared commitment to the security of the waters of this region and to the freedom of navigation.”

He added that the U.S. will be extending Manila with two ships, a research vessel and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter, to strengthen its maritime capacity.

China has, however, made strong efforts to keep the topic of the South China Sea off the agenda of the meet. It had sent its top envoy to Philippines last week to request Philippine officials to consider dropping South China Sea from the summit’s agenda.

Leaders gathered at the summit have also used the platform to condemn the heinous terror attacks in Paris that took place over the weekend. The 21-member APEC forum will be denouncing the attacks on the last day of the summit, as per a draft declaration seen by the Associated Press.

"We strongly condemn these atrocities that demand a united voice from the global community. We, therefore, reaffirm our strong collective resolve to counter terrorism," the draft read. The APEC is all set to begin on Wednesday and will be convened under tight security.

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