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Important to 'maintain, promote peace': Asean

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Asean urges 'non-militarisation' of South China Sea

South-east Asia's leaders are calling for the "non-militarisation" of the South China Sea to ease tensions arising from territorial disputes.

A statement released yesterday by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte as Asean chair "emphasised the importance of non-militarisation".

The leaders "reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, stability, maritime safety and security, rules-based order and freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea", the statement added.

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, through which about US$5 trillion (S$6.8 trillion) worth of goods pass every year. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims there.

China has asserted its claims with a massive island-building programme in the Spratly Islands in the southern half of the South China Sea.

It already has Chengdu J-10 multi-role fighters, YJ-62 anti-ship cruise missiles and HQ-9 surface-to-air missiles stationed on Woody Island in the Paracel chain of islands near Vietnam.

Mr Duterte said last week the weapons build-up, not just by China but also the other claimants, raises the risk of a violent confrontation in the South China Sea.

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