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June 26, 2017

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Obama ignites China anger, warns against force

MANILA -- Barack Obama ended an Asian tour Tuesday with a warning to China against using force in territorial disputes, as Chinese authorities accused the U.S. president of ganging up with "troublemaking" allies.

The barbs ensured a tense finish to a four-nation trip dominated by the worsening maritime rows between China and U.S. allies in the region, which have triggered fears of military conflict.

"We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected," Obama told a gathering of U.S. and Filipino troops in Manila.

"We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force."

Close American ally the Philippines has been embroiled in one of the highest-profile territorial disputes with China, over tiny islets, reefs and rocks in the South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas, even waters and islands or reefs close to its neighbors.

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has repeatedly called on longtime ally the United States for help as China has increased military and diplomatic pressure to take control of the contested areas.

The Philippines and the United States signed an agreement on Monday that will allow a greater U.S. military presence on Filipino bases.

Obama Pledges Support

And Obama sought on Tuesday to reassure the Philippines that the United States would support its ally in the event of being attacked, citing a 1951 mutual defense treaty between the two nations.

"This treaty means our two nations pledge, and I am quoting, 'our common determination to defend themselves from external armed attacks,'" Obama said.

"And no potential aggressor can be under the illusion that either of them stands alone. In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. The United States will keep that commitment because allies will never stand alone."

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