Simon Tay, research fellow with Asia Society in New York, told Xinhua: "I think the Obama administration has come to realize, in the relationship with Asia, ASEAN has played an important role, as a hub for many of the Asian meetings, so it is important to engage ASEAN."
Despite the clear intention of substantive engagement, the content of the joint statement is more about good-will commitment and general principles and lacks real substance.
"Similar to the meeting in Singapore, the result is largely symbolic," said Tay, who is also chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs.
"There has been some preparation, but not a lot of substantive movement since the first summit. It is notable that the Indonesian president did not attend the summit. This suggests that even though ASEAN wants to engage the U.S., they have their own concerns. This relationship needs to grow substantively," he said.
Tay also said substantive cooperation between the United States and ASEAN faced barriers, citing a free trade agenda as one example which would be opposed by U.S. domestic politics.