The United States President, Barack Obama has called for the “peaceful resolution” of disputes in the South China Sea in a speech in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, according to CNN report.
“In the South China Sea, the U.S. is not a claimant in current disputes, but we will stand with our partners in upholding key principles like freedom of navigation,” Obama said.
His remarks came the day after the U.S. lifted a decades-long ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam.
“Vietnam will have greater access to the equipment you need to improve your security,” Obama said. “Nations are sovereign and no matter how large or small a nation may be its territory should be respected.”
Though he did not mention the country by name, China has been making aggressive moves in the South China Sea, which it claims nearly all of.
“Big nations should not bully smaller ones,” Obama said. “Disputes should be resolved peacefully.”
Vietnamese fishermen told CNN this month that they are repeatedly boarded by Chinese-flagged vessels and their equipment stolen and crew beaten.
Obama also used his speech to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a U.S.-led trade deal that has attracted considerable criticism in recent months, with both Democratic Presidential candidates and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump distancing themselves from the agreement.
“I strongly support TPP,” Obama said, adding that it had “important strategic benefits.”
“We have to get it done for the sake of our economic prosperity,” he said.
In a wide-ranging speech, the U.S. President also called on Vietnam to respect commitments to universal rights — including freedom of speech, religion and association — in the country’s constitution, and referenced a now viral photo of him eating street food with celebrity chef and CNN host Anthony Bourdain.