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US, Singapore discourage militarization in South China Sea

President Barack Obama and Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stand and watch a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 2, 2016. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

MANILA, Philippines — The United States and Singapore urged all concerned parties in the disputed South China Sea to avoid actions that would escalate tensions in the contested waters such as the militarization of outposts in the area.

US President Barack Obama and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong released a joint statement on Tuesday, reaffirming the two nations' commitment to maintaining regional peace and stability.

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"They emphasized the importance of resolving disputes peacefully, including full respect for legal and diplomatic processes, without resorting to the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, including as reflected in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea," the joint statement read.

The two leaders also reaffirmed the importance of upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea following the decision of an arbitral tribunal on the maritime dispute between China and the Philippines.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration concluded that China violated its commitment to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea by building artificial islands in the Philippines's exclusive economic zone.

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"They reaffirmed their support for the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea and the expeditious conclusion of a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea," the joint statement said.

Lee made an official visit to the US to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations between the US and Singapore and to enhance the bilateral strategic partnership.

"Beyond bilateral cooperation, the two countries have worked as close partners to build a rules-based economic and security order for the Asia-Pacific and to address challenges on the global stage, including economic prosperity, climate change, terrorism, transnational crime, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction," the joint statement read. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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