WASHINGTON Feb 5 The United States has growing
concerns that China's maritime claims in the disputed South
China Sea are an effort to gain creeping control of oceans in
the Asia-Pacific region, a senior U.S. official said on
In congressional testimony, U.S. Assistant Secretary of
State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Danny Russel said
China's vague territorial claims in the South China Sea had
"created uncertainty, insecurity and instability" among its
While the United States says it does not take sides in
disputes, Russel said it has an interest in seeing maritime
disputes resolved peacefully. The United States has also stepped
up its military presence in the region as part of a strategic
"pivot" toward Asia.
"There are growing concerns that this pattern of behavior in
the South China Sea reflects incremental effort by China to
assert control over the area contained in the so-called
'nine-dash line' despite objections of its neighbors and despite
the lack of explanation or apparent basis under international
law regarding the scope of the claim itself," Russel told the
House of Representatives subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific.
China has fired off a barrage of historical records - known
as the nine-dash line - to depict its maritime territorial
claims in the South China Sea. The nine-dash line takes in about
90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer (1.35 million
square miles) South China Sea on Chinese maps.
China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and
Brunei all have territorial claims across a waterway that
provides 10 percent of the global fisheries catch and carries $5
trillion in ship-borne trade.
Russel said under international law, maritime claims in the
South China Sea had to be based on land features. Beijing should
"clarify or adjust its nine-dash line claim to bring it in
accordance with the international law of the sea," he added.
To address U.S. concerns, Russel said he and other senior
U.S. officials had traveled to the region to raise the issue
with China. In prepared remarks for the testimony, he said U.S.
Secretary of State John Kerry also would soon visit the region.
Russel said the United States was also concerned about the
"serious downturn" in China-Japan relations over a tiny set of
uninhabited islands in the East China Sea. Both Tokyo and
Washington have said they do not recognize China's announcement
last year that it has the right to police the skies above the
Russel said the United States supported Japan's call for
diplomacy and crisis management to "avoid a miscalculation or a
"Neither these two important countries nor the global
economy can afford an unintended clash that neither side seeks
or wants," Russel said. "It is imperative that Japan and China
use diplomatic means to manage this issue peacefully and set
aside matters that can't be resolved at his time," he added.
(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Dan Grebler)