By Pia Lee-Brago
MANILA, Philippines - The United States yesterday acknowledged that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was under “tremendous” pressure on the South China Sea issue.
Heather Nauert, spokesperson for the US Department of State, said ASEAN still “held on to its principles” by defeating attempts to drop “militarization,” self-restraint” and “land reclamation” from the joint communiqué at the end of the meeting in Manila.
“So the ASEAN foreign ministers’ joint communiqué, which came out at the end of the forum, contains language on the South China Sea, and that reflects ASEAN’s important role in strengthening the rules-based order that benefits all nations, both large and small,” Nauert said in a press briefing in Washington.
The US welcomed the ASEAN foreign ministers’ reaffirmation of the importance of freedom of navigation, noting that the US shared their concerns over developments that Washington considered to be “unconducive” to regional stability, such as land reclamation.
“ASEAN was under tremendous pressure, but still held on to its principles,” she stressed.
Nauert added ASEAN also stressed the importance of exercising self-restraint, including refraining from militarization of features in the South China Sea.
The US reiterated that the July 16 arbitral ruling is binding on China and the Philippines.
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