RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) — President Barack Obama and the leaders of Southeast Asia called Tuesday for peaceful resolution of the region’s maritime disputes as they concluded a summit in California.
Obama told a news conference that disputes must be resolved by legal means, including a case brought by the Philippines challenging China’s sweeping claims over most of the South China Sea.
China has refused to take part in the proceedings, but Obama said parties to the U.N. law of the seas are obligated to respect the ruling, expected later this year.
Obama has been hosting 10 leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in the U.S. for the first time. That sends a subtle message to China that the U.S. remains an important force in the region.
But the leaders’ joint statement after two days of talks avoided direct reference to China, reflecting the careful path that ASEAN members tread in their diplomacy with the world powers.
“Any disputes between claimants must be resolved peacefully through legal means such as the upcoming arbitration ruling under the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Seas, which the parties are obligated to respect and abide by,” Obama said.