Asean tackles South China Sea, Ukraine during summit with US

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WASHINGTON - Maintaining full freedom of navigation for everyone in the South China Sea is crucial not just for claimant states but also for the international community at large, given the volume of global trade that flows through the waters, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (May 13).

The contested waters featured prominently during the two-day summit of US and Asean leaders in Washington, both explicitly in speeches by the leaders and implicitly, in maritime cooperation programmes rolled out by the US.

Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam claim parts of the sea which overlap with China's claims. Beijing claims up to 90 per cent of the disputed waters based on a historical nine-dash line, but an international arbitral tribunal ruled in 2016 that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to the sea's resources.

The US has criticised China for contravening international law and intimidating and coercing the South-east Asian claimants, which Beijing denies.

Speaking during a plenary session with Asean leaders and US President Joe Biden, PM Lee said that Singapore supports the conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) for the South China Sea.

"Singapore supports the conclusion of a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, one that is in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), and one that safeguards the rights and interests of all parties," he said.

Earlier, during a working lunch h...

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