Honor territorial pledge, US told China asked the United States on Friday to take no position on the South China Sea issue after a top US officer promised to back the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in patrolling areas of the waterway.
The US 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. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei asked the US to remain committed to its promise to take no position on territorial issues and to stop making "irresponsible remarks".
"The remarks are not conducive to the peace and stability of the South China Sea, and contribute little to the proper handling of related disputes," Hong said at a regular news conference on Friday.
He emphasized that disputes related to the South China Sea should be solved by the countries directly concerned through negotiations and consultations. In January, Thomas said the US would welcome a Japanese extension of air patrols into the South China Sea.
Su Hao, a professor of Asia-Pacific studies at China Foreign Affairs University, said the remarks show that Washington is preparing to become directly involved in the South China Sea.
The US has developed a "sense of crisis" over China's close cooperation with neighboring countries based on a series of initiatives, including some infrastructure projects, he said.
Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University of China, said it is "not realistic" for Washington to rely on the cooperation of ASEAN nations in containing Beijing.
"These countries will not respond to its suggestion, given their own considerations," Jin said, adding that he thinks Thomas' words only represent the views of some US military officers.
President Xi Jinping has been invited by his US counterpart Barack Obama to pay a state visit to the US in September. It will be his first state visit to the country since taking office.
On Friday, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and US Secretary of State John Kerry exchanged views through a telephone call.
The two countries pledged to work closely with each other and to make all necessary preparations for the visit.