WASHINGTON The United States must respond more aggressively to China's territorial claims in Asia, an influential U.S. Republican said on Thursday, warning that failure to do so would bring "death by a thousand cuts."
Mike Rogers, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives' intelligence committee, said Washington should be less concerned with Chinese sensibilities when dealing with Beijing.
The congressman's comments came as China and the United States concluded two days of talks in Beijing aimed at managing an increasingly complex and at times testy relationship.
"We need to be more direct; we need to be more aggressive," he told a conference at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
"We need to empower our friends and our allies in the region to be more direct and more aggressive," he added in comments reflecting Republican frustration with Democratic President Barack Obama's cautious approach to China, a country that is both a strategic rival and major economic partner for the United States.
Rogers said China was taking advantage of security distractions elsewhere in the world to pursue its territorial claims incrementally, at the expense of weaker neighbors.
"It's really death by a thousand cuts ... when you start adding the totality of it and looking at those brewing clouds of conflict, this is as serious as it gets."
Rogers accused China of "gluttonous, naked aggression" in pursuit of its territorial claims and said he expected to see as a response, "a serious escalation of our ability to expand cooperation" with U.S. allies and partners in Asia.
"This is our chance to push back, to change the calculus, to change the outcome ... this is our chance to let China understand that they should not question American resolve when it comes to the freedom of navigation, the freedom of trade and commerce, in the South China Sea," he said.
Ways to do this included increased sharing of intelligence and expanded military cooperation with China's neighbors, Rogers said.
The Strategic and Economic Dialogue between the United States and china, now in its fifth year, ended on Thursday with little immediate sign of progress on Asian maritime issues or the thorny issue of cyber-spying. The two sides did agree to strengthen cooperation in counter-terrorism, law enforcement and military-to-military relations.
Washington says it has not taken sides on China's territorial disputes, but it has been increasingly forceful in recent months in its criticism of China's behavior.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; editing by Andrew Hay)