China and ASEAN members agreed on Monday to avoid basing people on now-uninhabited islands and reefs in the disputed South China Sea, as the bloc made its first official joint statement on the waters since an international tribunal ruling this month. According to the South China Morning Post, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ joint communiqué expressed serious concerns over land reclamation and “escalations of activities in the area”, but did not directly challenge China nor mention the ruling. China and ASEAN then released a separate joint statement on implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea. It also underlined their pledge to respect freedom of navigation and to peacefully solve territorial disputes through negotiation.
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