In an apparent warning to China, US President Barack Obama has said all ASEAN members agreed that Beijing should uphold the verdict of The Hague arbitration tribunal on the South China Sea dispute with the Philippines as it is “legal and binding”.
“With regards to security, our nations reaffirmed our commitment to a regional order, where international rules and laws are upheld and where disagreements are all peacefully resolved. There is recognition of the importance of the international arbitrational ruling in July, which is legal and binding and which clarified maritime claims by the Philippines and China in the South China Sea,” Obama said during a press conference at the end of the ASEAN Summit in Laos on Thursday.
He said during the Summit, all nations have agreed to respect the international laws, not militarising disputed areas and not occupy uninhabited islands, reefs and shores.
Hinting that Washington will not abandon its support to the Philippines over the South China Sea dispute, Obama said, “The US will stand with its allies and partners in upholding fundamental interests, among them are the freedom of navigation and over flight, lawful commerce that is not impeded and peaceful resolution of disputes.”
An arbitration court in The Hague ruled in July that China had no historic title over the waters of the South China Sea and had infringed on the rights of the Philippines, which brought the case under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China, however, rejected the ruling and accused the United States of stirring up trouble in the sea, where its territorial claims overlap in parts with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. Since then, the US has been stating that China should uphold the tribunal’s verdict.