"Your region is home to the world's busiest ports and the most critical sea lanes. So stability where you live matters deeply to prosperity where we live," Kerry told a meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers in New York.

"That's one of the reasons why the United States is so committed to maritime security, to the freedom of navigation on the seas, and to resolving the disputes with respect to territory and achieving a code of conduct," he said.

"This is going to require respect for international law and unimpeded lawful commerce in the South China Sea."

The top US diplomat urged the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to "move as swiftly as possible to reach a binding code of conduct for addressing disputes, without threats, without coercion and without use of force."

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