Tourists pose for photos with Malaysian policemen on patrol outside the Petronas Twin Towers
Kuala Lumpur - Arab Today
Asia-Pacific leaders meeting in Malaysia on Saturday condemned the string of Islamic extremist attacks from Paris to Mali, urging an international effort to fight the scourge.
Prime Minister Najib Razak of Muslim-majority Malaysia opened a fresh round of summitry by railing against the ideological mantle claimed by Islamic militants.
"The perpetrators of these cowardly and barbaric acts do not represent any race, religion or creed," he told fellow Southeast Asian leaders. "They are terrorists."
US President Barack Obama condemned the violence typified by the "appalling" jihadist hostage siege in Mali that left at least 21 dead, including an American citizen.
"This barbarity only stiffens our resolve to meet this challenge," he said in Kuala Lumpur.
Obama and his counterparts are meeting in the Malaysian capital for round two in a week of back-to-back regional meetings.
The top-level diplomacy kicked off in Manila with a summit of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) bloc.
APEC ended with an urgent call for cooperation against extremism following the attacks in Paris by Islamic State group adherents that killed 130.
- 'Serious concern' -
Many of the same leaders are now in Malaysia for the meeting of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which expands Sunday into a broader forum including the United States, China, Russia and others.
Obama, America's self-styled "Pacific president", has been frustrated to see his Asia tour -- aimed at highlighting growing trade and investment ties -- overshadowed by the jihadist attacks on the other side of the world.
But his new 12-country Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact is on the agenda this weekend, with hopes high of prodding signatory countries to ratify the deal at home.
Obama sought to reassure US allies who are concerned the deal may not become law before he leaves office in early 2017.
"A new trade deal like TPP can be a tough sell," he admitted, before insisting "TPP is a win for the United States".
Unease over China's push to expand tiny atolls into fully-fledged islands to press its disputed maritime claims also looms over the talks.
In Manila, Obama called on China to cease the island-building -- which has stoked concerns of a violent confrontation -- and announced hundreds of millions of dollars of new aid to regional allies.
China insists on sovereignty over virtually all the strategic and resource-endowed South China Sea, which also is claimed in part by a handful of other countries.
Southeast Asian foreign ministers who met Friday in Kuala Lumpur issued a joint statement saying they were "seriously concerned" over the situation.
They reiterated a call -- typically aimed at China -- for rival claimants to avoid provocations that could threaten the tense, if peaceful, status quo.
In Kuala Lumpur, Southeast Asia leaders will declare the establishment on Sunday of an "ASEAN Economic Community" (AEC), inspired by Europe.
That takes ASEAN a step closer toward an envisioned single Southeast Asian market with free flow of goods, capital and skilled labour across borders.
But the AEC's goals are far off -- if they are ever realised at all -- due to significant non-tariff and other barriers and large development gaps between member-states. The declaration is largely symbolic.
ASEAN leaders Saturday signed a new convention against human trafficking, reaffirming past pledges to fight a scourge that activists say thrives due to corruption and inaction.
Asia-Pacific leaders attend a gala dinner Saturday night that will see them decked out in luminously coloured traditional Malaysian jackets, continuing a much-mocked diplomatic practice of dressing attendees in host-culture garb.