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Despite differences, Mr. Surin said it was a sign of progress that China was willing to join ASEAN in discussing ways to solve the disputes.

“There may be some variation of opinions, but I think, on the whole, we’re moving in the direction of engaging very actively on the issue,” Mr. Surin said. “I think it’s very important to reassure the world that we can manage our differences.”

The conflicts have settled into an uneasy standoff since the last fighting, involving China and Vietnam, killed more than 70 Vietnamese sailors in 1988.

North Korea’s planned rocket launch also is expected to be a main topic at the summit. U.S. officials say the rocket is actually a test of long-range missile technology, and nations are concerned that parts could fall in Southeast Asia. North Korea insists it is planning to place a peaceful observation satellite into orbit sometime between April 12 and 16.

Associated Press writer Jim Gomez contributed to this report.