Washington: The United States is “troubled” by tensions triggered by a maritime border dispute in the South China Sea, US officials said on Friday, calling for a “peaceful” resolution to the crisis.
“We’ve been troubled by some of these reports about the South China Sea and believe they only serve to raise tensions and don’t help with the peace and security of the region,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner.
“We support a collaborative diplomatic process… and call on all claimants to conform all of their claims, both land and maritime, to international law.”
He said the United States and the international community at large share an interest in maintaining maritime security in the region, citing freedom of navigation, economic development and respect for international law.
Beijing says it is committed to peace in the South China Sea, but its more assertive maritime posture has caused concern among regional nations.
Tensions between China and Vietnam are at their highest level in years after Hanoi accused Chinese marine surveillance vessels of cutting the exploration cables of an oil survey ship in May inside its exclusive economic zone in the maritime waters.
On Thursday, Vietnam alleged a similar incident in the zone, saying a Chinese fishing boat rammed the cables of another oil survey ship in its waters.
Beijing countered by warning Vietnam to halt all activities that it says violate its sovereignty in disputed South China Sea waters.
The two countries have long-standing disputes over the potentially oil-rich Paracel and Spratly archipelagos and surrounding sea.
Tensions have also risen this year between China and the Philippines, another claimant to the Spratly islands, where Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also say they have a stake.
Vietnam’s Navy on Friday announced it will hold a live-fire drill in the South China Sea next week.
“We don’t support anything that adds to raising the current level of tension; we don’t think it’s helpful,” Toner said.
“What there needs to be is a collaborative diplomatic process, a peaceful process, to resolve various territorial disputes and otherwise,” he added. “Shows of force, other gestures like that, just I think raise tensions.”
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates warned last weekend that clashes may erupt in the South China Sea unless nations with conflicting territorial claims adopt a mechanism to settle disputes peacefully. Zee News