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Updated 2:12 PM EST, Wed, Jan 29, 2020

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ASEAN Summit: US President Barack Obama Raises South China Sea Dispute, Says UN-Backed Court's Verdict is 'Binding'

Barack Obama

(Photo : Getty Images ) US President Barack Obama has discussed the South China Sea dispute with ASEAN leaders at a meeting in Laos.

US President Barack Obama on Thursday raised the territorial dispute in the South China Sea at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Laotian capital city of Vientiane.

Obama urged China to respect the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea dispute, describing it as "binding." The US President's remarks came during a meeting with leaders of ASEAN member states.

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"With respect to maritime issues, we'll continue to work to ensure that disputes are resolved peacefully including in the South China Sea," Obama said. "The landmark arbitration in July which is binding helped clarify maritime rights in the region."

Obama also assured ASEAN leaders that the US would continue to help to ensure the peaceful resolution of their territorial disputes. He urged ASEAN nations to work constructively with each other to lower tensions and promote regional stability.

Obama's remarks come a week after the Philippines claimed that China had started new construction work on the disputed Scarborough Shoal. On Wednesday, the Philippines' defense ministry released photos showing Chinese coast guard ships vessels near the disputed shoal in the South China Sea. Beijing, however, rejected Manila's claims and asked Filipino authorities to stop "hyping up" the situation in the disputed region.

In July, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, ruled against China in favor of Philippines in a long-standing territorial dispute over the South China Sea. China, which is laying claim to almost 80 percent of disputed territory, had said that it does not recognize the ruling. 

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