Last week’s summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, hosted for the first time in the United States, achieved mixed success.

President Obama considered the meeting important to his “pivot to Asia” policy. He also used it – via relations with ASEAN members Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – to counter growing Chinese influence.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam already contest China’s claim to pieces of rock and reefs in the South China Sea that Beijing is developing and may be militarizing.

American objectives were served by holding the discussions, but there was no mention of China in the joint statement released afterward. Most ASEAN members have important trading relationships with China and are reluctant to put them in jeopardy.

Some of the justification in the communique for taking common approaches to maritime problems in Southeast Asia referred to the 1982 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the U.S., unfortunately, has not yet ratified.

Attendance by Asian leaders was good, and among the communist heads were Cambodian President Hun Sen, a former chief of the brutal Khmer Rouge, and Malaysia’s Najib Razak, cleared last month of charges that he embezzled $681 million from a government fund.

The event was upstaged a bit by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death; none of the questions at Obama’s post-summit news conference dealt with the gathering. Even so, in terms of U.S. relations with this part of the world, the conference was well worth holding.