US Secretary of State John Kerry has called for a diplomatic solution to the tensions in the South China Sea.
Kerry, speaking in the Chinese capital Beijing on Monday, said, “We are looking for a peaceful resolution to the dispute in the South China Sea and oppose any country resolving claims through unilateral action.”
His remarks follow the recent flare-up of tensions in the South China Sea where regional countries have overlapping claims to maritime territories.
Kerry’s comments came at the start of the US-China strategic talks. The 8th round of Strategic and Economic Dialog between the United States and China kicked off Monday in the Chinese capital.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, who also addressed attendees at the opening session, said China and the US need to develop a more trusting relationship.
“China and the US need to increase mutual trust,” Xi said, as he called for increased efforts to manage conflicts and avoid “strategic misjudgment.”
“The vast Pacific should be a stage for cooperation, not an area for competition,” added the Chinese leader.
The US secretary of state and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew are leading the American delegation to the talks.
The high-level negotiations are aimed at boosting bilateral cooperation on regional and global issues.
The negotiations, however, are overshadowed by a growing rift over the South China Sea.
Washington has warned Beijing against expanding its islands in the disputed territory. Beijing is opposed to increased US presence there and accuses Washington of provoking tensions.
The South China Sea has become a source of tension between China, the US, and some regional countries who are seeking control of trade routes and mineral deposits.
The disputed islands in the region are claimed by countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, which all have overlapping claims with China over the territories in the South China Sea, including the Paracels, Spratly Islands, Pratas Islands and Scarborough Shoal.
Washington and China’s rivals have been accusing Beijing of attempting to take advantage of the situation and gradually assert control in the South China Sea.
Beijing, however, rejects the allegations and accuses Washington of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea serves as a crossing for more than USD 5 trillion worth of annual maritime trade.