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China, ASEAN must end island disputes 'swiftly': Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) addresses a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers aside the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 27, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) addresses a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers aside the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 27, 2013.

US Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday urged China and its Asian neighbors to resolve territorial disputes over the South China sea as swiftly as possible.

"Your region is home to the world's busiest ports and the most critical sea lanes. So stability where you live matters deeply to prosperity where we live," Kerry told a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in New York.

"That's one of the reasons why the United States is so committed to maritime security, to the freedom of navigation on the seas, and to resolving the disputes with respect to territory and achieving a code of conduct," he said.

"This is going to require respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."

The top US diplomat urged the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to "move as swiftly as possible to reach a binding code of conduct for addressing disputes, without threats, without coercion and without use of force."

US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers, aside the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 27, 2013
US Secretary of State John Kerry addresses a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers, aside the 68th United Nations General Assembly, in New York, September 27, 2013.

Earlier this month, Beijing warned the United States not to support its neighbors' claims to disputed islands in the East and South China Seas and to stay out of the rows.

Washington has always refused to take sides, but is keen to see its Asian partners adopt a code of conduct for navigation in some of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Sino-Japanese ties have soured dramatically since Tokyo nationalized some of the Senkaku islands, which Beijing claims and calls the Diaoyus, in the East China Sea a year ago.

China also claims almost all of the South China Sea including waters close to its neighbors' coasts, and tensions with the Philippines and Vietnam have intensified in recent years.

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