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South China Sea row tearing world apart – Obama

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – US President Barack Obama yesterday described the South China Sea issue as one of the current crises tearing the world apart.

In his final address to the United Nations General Assembly as US president, Obama appealed for global integration in the face of religious fundamentalism, the politics of ethnicity, aggressive nationalism and crude populism, even as he called for a course correction.

Obama said the South China Sea is where “a peaceful resolution of disputes offered by law will mean far greater stability than the militarization of a few rocks and reefs.”

He also critized Russia for “attempting to recover lost glory through force by interfering in the affairs of its neighbors.”

Russia has recently joined China in putting up large-scale naval war games in the contested South China Sea, including exercises for taking over islands in the disputed waters, in a show of growing cooperation between their armed forces.

In his meeting this month with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Laos, Obama said the group recognized the importance of a July international arbitration ruling dismissing China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea.

He also stressed the importance of not militarizing those areas or occupying uninhabited islands for those claiming parts of the disputed region.

He said the landmark arbitration ruling, which is binding, has helped clarify maritime rights in the region.

“I reiterated that the United States will stand with allies and partners in upholding fundamental interests, among them the freedom of navigation and overflight, lawful commerce that is not impeded and peaceful resolution of disputes,” Obama said.

Meanwhile, President Duterte reiterated on Tuesday that he did not seek the pullout of US Special Forces, as the Philippines would need its allies in defending the country from intrusions in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea.

On Sept. 12 in Malacañang, Duterte said he wanted the US soldiers out of Mindanao because they might be kidnapped. This was after he repeated his story on the Bud Dajo massacre to point out the Americans’ lack of moral ascendancy to talk about human rights.

Duterte clarified he wanted American troops to leave Mindanao so that the government would have “space” to hold peace talks with Moro rebels.

The President said he was “not against the Americans,” but Moro rebels were thinking they were “maneuvering” the talks.

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