"We've been clear that what China has done vis-a-vis this latest incident of putting down an oil rig and both sides then employing shows of force to react in response to that is provocative and unhelpful," US National Security Advisor Susan Rice yesterday.
"What you saw beyond closed doors at the ASEAN meeting last weekend was a great deal of anxiety which doesn't serve China well. China has every interest in the countries of that region wanting to partner with it, not to be talking behind closed doors about how to counter it," Rice said in response to a question at a Women's Foreign Policy Group Discussion.
The US, she said, has been very clear that the only way to resolve these territorial disputes over sovereignty or through the mechanisms of international law and peaceful resolution, whether it's the Law of the Sea convention or other international legal instruments.
"We have never have, taken a position on the sovereignty of these disputed territories, but we have been very clear that provocative actions, intimidation, steps to create facts on the ground that complicate the prospect for diplomatic resolution are completely unhelpful," she said.
"That was the message that the president took, in part, during our recent trip to Asia. And it won wide support from each of the countries he visited, where in fact what we're seeing in Southeast Asia are countries that want good and constructive relationships with China, but are increasingly unnerved and put off by what they view as provocative and aggressive actions by China," she said.
One thing that can be said about China is it wants to be welcomed and accepted as a major player, not just in its own neighbourhood but on the global stage, Rice said.
"And to the extent that it is becoming more isolated and the subject of concern and opposition within its own neighbourhood can't be a welcome development from the Chinese point of view," she noted.
Rice said that having spent time recently in Asia and in Europe where the US has had very close consultation and communication with some of its closest allies and partners, she said: "I can tell you that they all continue to look to the US as their principal partner, friend and source of strength and protection. And those alliances are mutually reinforcing and mutually beneficial."