BEIJING - China on Friday called on Washington not to take sides in the South China Sea dispute which involves neighboring countries in the region, including U.S. ally, the Philippines.
The United States has been increasingly uneasy at what it sees as China's effort to gain creeping control over waters in the Asia-Pacific region, including its November 23 declaration of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) in an area of the East China Sea that includes islands at the center of a dispute with Japan.
China also claims about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square km (1.35 million square miles) South China Sea, depicting what it sees as its area on maps with a so-called nine-dash line, looping far out over the sea from south China.
Speaking in Washington on Thursday , a senior Philippine official urged the United States to exert more diplomatic, political and other measures to check China's expansion in the South China Sea.
On Thursday, the commander of the U.S. Navy said the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China over disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said the United States should stick to its promises and not take sides in this dispute.
"Our stance is very clear. China has said several times before that China has consistently said that direct relevant claimant countries should, on the basis of respecting historical facts and international law, solve the relevant dispute through bilateral talks and negotiations," she said.
"We want to especially point out that the U.S. side is not a direct party in the South China Sea dispute, and should keep its commitment of not taking any sides on the issue of territorial sovereignty, be cautious in words and actions, do more that will benefit in truly maintaining peace and stability in the region, rather than the opposite," she added.
Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims over the South China Sea, or at least parts of it.