Obama, ASEAN discuss South China Sea tensions, but no joint mention of China

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a news conference at the close of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit at Sunnylands in Rancho MirageBy Jeff Mason and Bruce Wallace RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he and leaders of Southeast Asian countries discussed the need to ease tensions in the South China Sea, and agreed that any territorial disputes there should be resolved peacefully and through legal means. Obama told a news conference that leaders at the meeting reaffirmed “our strong commitment to a regional order where international rules and norms and the rights of all nations, large and small, are upheld.” “We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarization of disputed areas,” Obama said. “When ASEAN speaks with a clear and unified voice, it can help advance security, opportunity and human dignity.” After a first day discussing trade and economic issues with the 10 ASEAN states, U.S. officials had been hoping to arrive at a common position on the South China Sea, where China and several ASEAN states have conflicting claims.

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