Top Asian News 2:04 a.m. GMT

World defense officials hold talks in Singapore with tensions between China and the US as backdrop

SINGAPORE (AP) — Government leaders, defense officials and diplomats from around the world are gathering in Singapore for Asia’s premier security forum this weekend, at a time of increasing tension and competition for influence between the U.S. and China in the Indo-Pacific region. Beijing in recent years has been rapidly expanding its navy and is becoming growingly assertive in pressing its claim to virtually the entire South China Sea, which has led to an increasing number of direct conflicts with other countries in the region, most notably the Philippines and Vietnam. The U.S., meantime, has been ramping up military exercises in the region with its allies to underscore its “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept, meant to emphasize freedom of navigation through the contested waters, including the Taiwan Strait.