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US underscores freedom of navigation in South China Sea as Pence tours Asia

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence waves during a lecture for Japan-U.S. business leaders at a hotel in Tokyo, Wednesday, April 19, 2017. Pence made a pitch for President Donald Trump's economic policies, telling U.S. and Japanese business leaders that a tax overhaul and cut in regulations will help business on both sides of the Pacific. AP/Shizuo Kambayashi

MANILA, Philippines — United States (US) Vice President Mike Pence stressed Washington's stand on the South China Sea dispute during his visit to Indonesia on Thursday.

"The United States will uphold the fundamental freedoms of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea and throughout the Asia Pacific," Pence said during his joint press conference with Indonesia President Joko Widodo.

Pence also said that the US will ensure the flow of trade in the region amid issues of global concern.

The disputed South China Sea carries $5 trillion in trade annually and contains an estimated 11 billion barrels of oil, 190 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 12 percent of the global fish catch.

"We'll ensure the unimpeded flow of lawful commerce and promote peaceful diplomatic dialogue to address issues of regional and global concern," Pence said.

Pence also confirmed that US President Donald Trump will attend the US-ASEAN and East Asia meetings in the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Vietnam.

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READ: US: Trump going to Philippines

The US vice president said that Trump's attendance at the meetings would be “a sign, I hope to all, of our firm and unwavering commitment to build on the strong foundations that we already share."

Former US President Barack Obama sought a pivot to Asia, refocusing US foreign policy in the region to counter the growing influence of China.

Pence earlier went to South Korea and Japan to reaffirm US treaty commitments to the security of the two countries as tensions rise over North Korea's nuclear and missile programs.

RELATED: Nervous about China, Southeast Asia gets Trump's attention

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