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Obama: US will continue to push for peaceful settlement of disputes

U.S. President Barack Obama glances at the leaders as he attends the East Asia Summit on the last day of the 28th and 29th Association of Southeast Asian Nations summits at the National Convention Center, Thursday, Sept. 8, 2016 in Vientiane, Laos. AP/Bullit Marquez

MANILA, Philippines — United States President Barack Obama told Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders that they will continue to work to ensure that maritime disputes will be resolved in a peaceful manner, particularly the South China Sea dispute.

The American president noted that the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the Philippines' case against China's nine-dash line claim over the disputed sea is binding.

"The landmark arbitration ruling in July which is binding helped clarify maritime rights in the region," Obama said in his speech at the ASEAN-US meeting in Vientiane, Laos.

"I recognize this raises tensions but I also look forward to discussing how we can constructively move together to lower tensions and promote diplomacy and regional stability," Obama said.

Obama cited the Sunnylands Declaration where he and Southeast Asian leaders expressed stronger commitment to keeping peace in the disputed South China Sea.

The declaration issued last February highlights the agreement between the leaders to respect the sovereignty of every nation and abide by the rules provided for under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

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READ: ‘Sea freedoms must be respected’ | Obama, SE Asian leaders seek resolution to maritime disputes

The arbitral tribunal ruled that China violated its commitment to the UNCLOS upon constructing artificial islands in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.

China, however, refused to accept the tribunal's ruling and insisted that they have indisputable sovereignty in the disputed waters.

Both China and the Philippines have stressed the need to craft a code of conduct for claimants in the South China Sea and to settle disputes peacefully.

READ: Philippines shows photos of Chinese ships in disputed sea | China confirms vessels on Scarborough, denies reclamation

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