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US, ASEAN call for rules-based resolution of disputes in South China Sea

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By Genalyn Kabiling

The United States and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have called for the peaceful and rules-based resolution of disputes in the South China Sea.

NOVEMBER 13, 2017 US President Donald Trump delivers his message while President Rodrigo Duterte listens during the ASEAN-US 40th Commemorative Summit of the 31st ASEAN Summit held at Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. EDWIN BACASMAS

US President Donald Trump delivers his message while President Rodrigo Duterte listens during the ASEAN-US 40th Commemorative Summit of the 31st ASEAN Summit held at Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City. (EDWIN BACASMAS)

The leaders, in a joint statement after the US-ASEAN summit, also declared support for freedom of navigation and non-militarization to keep regional peace and security.

“We maintain a shared commitment to peaceful resolution of disputes, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS),” the statement read.

“We are dedicated to maintaining peace, security, and stability in the region, and to ensuring maritime security and safety, including the rights of freedom of navigation and overflight and other lawful uses of the seas, and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce as described in the 1982 UNCLOS as well as non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities,” it added.

The ASEAN-US leaders did not mention the South China Sea in the joint statement but Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. confirmed the matter was raised during the summit talks with Trump.

Roque said ASEAN pushed for the peaceful solution to the South China Sea issue and called for the completion of the code of conduct in the disputed waters.

“The party who brought up the South China Sea issue was the Prime Minister of Malaysia because the Prime Minister of Malaysia was asked to deliver the common statement of ASEAN in the presence of the US President,” Roque said in a press conference after the summit.

The ASEAN and the US leaders also expressed support to mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality, and political independence of all nations. They agreed to uphold the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter, and international law, and the right of protection of human rights was also among the commitments reached by the United States and the regional bloc.

“We are committed to ensuring opportunities for all of our peoples, through strengthening democracy, enhancing good governance and the rule of law, promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms, combating corruption and encouraging the promotion of tolerance and moderation,” the statement read.

They said the ASEAN-US Partnership for Good Governance, Equitable and Sustainable Development, and Security (PROGRESS) program works with ASEAN governments to build the capacities of ASEAN governments to respond to the needs of their citizens.

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