Date
22 May 2017
US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference following a summit with ASEAN leaders in California on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters
US President Barack Obama speaks at a news conference following a summit with ASEAN leaders in California on Tuesday. Photo: Reuters

Obama, ASEAN leaders seek peaceful resolution of sea disputes

US President Barack Obama and the leaders of Southeast Asian nations concluded a summit in Rancho Mirage, California Tuesday, calling for peaceful resolution of maritime disputes in Asia.

Obama stressed that disputes must be resolved by legal means, including a case brought by the Philippines challenging Beijing’s sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea, Associated Press reported.

“Any disputes between claimants must be resolved peacefully through legal means such as the upcoming arbitration ruling under the UN Convention of the Law of the Seas,” the US president was quoted as saying.

China has refused to take part in the proceedings, but Obama said parties to the UN law of the seas are obligated to respect the ruling, expected later this year. 

Obama has been hosting 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in the US for the first time.  

But the leaders’ joint statement after two days of talks avoided direct reference to China, AP noted. 

China says it has a historical right to virtually all of the South China Sea and has built seven artificial islands, some with airstrips, to assert its sovereignty.

Taiwan and ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines also claim land features in these potentially resource-rich waters, an important thoroughfare for international shipping. 

Though not a claimant, Washington has spoken out against China’s conduct and has angered Beijing by sailing US Navy ships near some of the artificial islands to demonstrate freedom to sail there. 

Obama said the US will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and that it will support the right of other countries to do the same. 

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CG/RC

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