File photo of US Secretary of State John Kerry. (AFP)
US Secretary of State John Kerry voiced concern to China on Wednesday over its land reclamation in the disputed South China Sea and militarisation of the waters, a US official said.
"Secretary Kerry reiterated his concern about rising tensions over disputed claims in the South China Sea and China's large scale reclamation, construction, and militarisation of features there," a State Department official told reporters after Kerry met Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Malaysia.
"He encouraged China, along with the other claimants, to halt problematic actions in order to create space for diplomacy."
The two envoys met at the sidelines of a gathering hosted by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Kuala Lumpur at which the long-simmering regional dispute over the South China Sea has resurfaced as a flashpoint issue.
China has sparked alarm in the region by expanding tiny reefs and constructing military posts to reinforce its claims over the strategic waters, which are believed to sit atop vast gas deposits.
China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the sea. However ASEAN members the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan, also claim parts of the sea.
The United States and Southeast Asian countries have called for Beijing to halt its reclamation activities, which have dominated discussions at the regional security forum, but China has refused.
Their meeting came a day after Southeast Asian nations warned the row was threatening peace and stability in the region.