"We discussed the need for tangible steps in the South China Sea to lower tensions, including a halt to further reclamation, new construction and militarisation of disputed areas," Obama told reporters yesterday at the end of the two-day US-ASEAN Summit in Sunnylands, California.

"Mutual respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, equality and political independence of all nations by firmly upholding the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations, the ASEAN Charter and international law," Obama and the 10 ASEAN leaders said in a joint statement.

"Freedom of navigation must be upheld, and lawful commerce should not be impeded. I reiterated that the United States will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, and we will support the right of all countries to do the same," Obama said.

He said one of his main messages over the past two days has been the commitment of the US to ASEAN and its people.

That commitment is and will remain strong and enduring, he added.

The summit agreed to do more together to encourage the entrepreneurship and innovation that are at the heart of modern competitive economies, he added.

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