China asked the United States to take no position on the South China Sea issue after US Navy Officer Robert Thomas promised to back the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in patrolling areas of the waterway.
"We hope the United States will strictly honor its commitment of not taking positions or sides on territorial sovereignty issues," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei.
The U.S. navy officer suggested on Tuesday that the Southeast Asian countries form a combined maritime force to patrol areas of the South China Sea.
"If ASEAN members were to take the lead in organizing something along those lines, trust me, the US 7th Fleet would be ready to support," Robert Thomas, commander of the US navy 7th Fleet, was quoted by Bloomberg as saying in Malaysia.
China and several ASEAN countries, including Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, have overlapping territorial claims to parts of the South China Sea.
Lei asked the US to remain committed to its promise to take no position on territorial issues and to stop making "irresponsible remarks". Hong said Thomas' remarks "will by no means help resolve the South China Sea disputes properly or contribute to peace and stability in the South China Sea".
He emphasized that disputes related to the South China Sea should
be solved by the countries directly concerned through negotiations and consultations.
Experts in maritime affairs that Thomas' suggestion was not constructive to maintain peace and stability in Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, panicked by China’s growing influence in the South China Sea, several US Senators have demanded that a formal strategy be put in place to combat what the United States sees
as a threat to its own hegemony.
In a letter to US Secretary of State John Kerry and US Defense Secretary Ash Carter, Republican Sens. John McCain and Bob Corker and Democrats Jack Reed and Bob Menendez said that without a comprehensive strategy, “long-standing interests of the United States, as well as our allies and partners, stand at considerable risk.”
They said China’s land reclamation and construction in the South China Sea’s Spratly archipelago gave it the potential to expand its military reach and was “a direct challenge, not only to the interests of the United States and the region, but to the entire international community.”