US President Barack Obama on Thursday warned China against using force or intimidation in its tense maritime disputes with its neighbors and urged a peaceful resolution.
Obama, meeting Chinese officials who were in Washington for wide-ranging talks, “urged China to manage its maritime disputes with its neighbors peacefully, without the use of intimidation or coercion,” a White House statement said.
Tensions have steadily risen between China and Japan, which accuses its growing neighbor of sending an increasing number of ships to exert its claim over unpopulated islands managed by Tokyo in the East China Sea.
The Philippines and Vietnam have also charged that China has used assertive means to exert claims in the conflict-riven South China Sea, although tensions have abated slightly with Hanoi in recent weeks.
Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi (楊潔篪), addressing a press event at the end of the two days of talks, said that China explained its “principled position” on the East China Sea and South China Sea.
China “expressed the hope that the US will support the efforts of the parties concerned to properly handle and resolve the relevant disputes through dialogue,” Yang told a press event.
“China is the firmest promoter of the freedom of navigation in all oceans around the world, and China will continue to firmly implement this policy,” he said.
Since 2010, the US has repeatedly been outspoken over the South China Sea, saying that it has a national interest in ensuring freedom of navigation, but does not take sides on individual claims.
With an eye on the tensions, the US has boosted military cooperation with Japan and the Philippines — which are both treaty-bound allies — as well as with former war adversary Vietnam.