The International tribunal’s ruling on China’s claims to the disputed South China Sea was “binding,” U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday during the Asean summit in Laos. His comments came after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang appeared to warn the U.S. to stay out of the dispute by saying his country wanted to work with other regional nations to “dispel interference.”
The South China Sea row is among several security threats at the center of discussion Thursday at the summit. China was accused by the Philippines, a U.S. ally, of building structures on islands in the area.
In July, an arbitration court in The Hague ruled that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to resources in the South China Sea. But, Beijing rejected the judgment.
“The landmark arbitration ruling in July, which is binding, helped clarify maritime rights in the region,” Obama said.
A day earlier, Li had said that Beijing was willing to work with Asean countries in driving out interference and properly handling the South China Sea issue in accordance with the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. The U.S. and China both have accused one another of militarizing the disputed area.
“Countries in the region are the biggest beneficiaries of peace in the South China Sea. History and facts have repeatedly showed that the South China Sea can only be peaceful and stable so long as the regional countries themselves get hold of the key to fixing the problems,” Li said.
On Wednesday, Obama also made it clear that the U.S. will continue its presence in the disputed region as per international law.
China has laid claims to almost all of the South China Sea area through which about $5 trillion worth of maritime trade passes every year. Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have conflicting claims over territory in the region.