The best way for China to resolve issues with its neighbors is for everyone to sit down and "work it out", U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia and Pacific, said.
"We're not a claimant, they are - work it out! The best way to do it is through direct dialogue and we've seen countries in this region resolve territorial issues which are pretty difficult," he said at the Shangri-La Dialogue over the weekend.
"Where the United States will continue to play a very strong role is that we want to make sure the maritime issues are resolved peacefully so that commerce can continue through the China Sea, and that you use international means to accomplish it," Cardin added, noting the U.S. is committed to open passage through the South China Sea.
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U.S. Secretary of State Chuck Hagel delivered a fiery address to the Shangri-La Dialogue, warning China that while the U.S had no position on territorial claims in Asia, it would not "look the other way" if the international order was challenged.
The South China Sea is one of the world's busiest water ways, with around 80 percent of crude oil transports passing through the region. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines have all staked claims to the region.
Senator Cardin's comments come in the wake of increased geopolitical tensions over the placement of a Chinese oil rig in contested waters. Tensions came to a head last month when the Chinese coast guard reportedly rammed Vietnamese boats, while violent anti-China demonstrations in Vietnam left six people dead.
"The fact that China used a full military escort is pretty provocative. I don't know why China did it that way - it makes no sense to me at all," he said. "They could have easily worked out some way of using international protocols to explain what they were doing, give opportunities for debate, and work out an agreement."