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Southeast Asian nations Monday avoided direct criticism of Beijing over its claims to the South China Sea, in a diluted statement produced after days of disagreement that gives the superpower a diplomatic victory. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) sidestepped any mention of a ruling by a UN-backed tribunal in early July that rejected China's territorial claims and infuriated Beijing. Instead, ASEAN, gathered in the Laos capital Vientiane for the first time since the ruling, called for "self-restraint" from all parties in the strategic waterway in a soft statement that edged away from a showdown with regional powerhouse China.
VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday stressed the importance of complying with a rules-based international system in a meeting with his counterparts from South East Asia shortly after they were unable to agree on a statement criticizing China for territorial expansion in the South China Sea.