Obama puts South China Sea back on agenda at summit

China demonstrated its diplomatic muscle in the region by having host nation Laos to delete from the East Asia Summit communique any reference to the tribunal decision, just as it managed to do the day before to the communique issued by a meeting of the 10 ASEAN nations.

The Nine-Dash Line is China's demarcation of its claim to most of the South China Sea, including territory much closer to the borders of the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia than the Chinese shore.

In July, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration, based in the Hague, ruled favoring Philippines claims on the South China Sea.

Beijing's reclamation of shoals and coral reefs to build outposts in disputed areas inevitably heightens military tensions.

Amid the recent brinkmanship in the South China Sea, the chairman's statement said that ASEAN aimed to promote peace and security in the region and stressed the importance "of non-militarisation and self-restraint in the conduct of all activities, including land reclamation that could further complicate the situation and escalate tensions in the South China Sea".

Instability in East Asia will seriously hurt the interests of all nations concerned, including China, Japan and the United States.

Reiterating its rejection of the tribunal ruling, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in Beijing that China hoped the USA can take "an objective and just attitude with respect to South China Sea issues".

Instead, the President said Asean member-states should be "on the side of peace" in dealing with their overlapping territorial claims.

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An artificial island at Scarborough Shoal could be a game changer in China's quest to control the sea and raises the risk of armed confrontation with the United States, according to security analysts.

It may be recalled that during the observance of National Heroes Day last August 29, President Duterte said "the Chinese people this time might find a place in their hearts for the Filipino; I hope that you treat us as your brothers".

"China values President Putin's position on the South China Sea issue", Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said today.

In addition to creating artificial islands in the South China Sea, the Chinese have also started to build airstrips and command and control towers on some of the landmasses.

On Wednesday, The Philippines expressed "grave concern" regarding the increasing number of Chinese boats near the disputed Shoal island in the South China Sea, shattering an appearance of cordiality at the summit.

He said the USA wants to build on its partnership with Southeast Asia and to promote a "rules-based order" in the region.

New Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a more conciliatory approach to China than his predecessor, and has said he would not raise the dispute in an adversarial manner that might upset Beijing. Cambodia did however block an explicit mention of the tribunal's ruling, which the Philippines was willing to concede, the official said.

Abe also noted that the South China Sea was a "vitally important sea lane for Japan".