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AKIPRESS.COM - The United States will monitor the South China Sea to see whether "de-escalatory steps" are being taken, a U.S. State Department official said on Monday, a day after China resisted pressure to rein in actions in the disputed waters.
The official spoke as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Sydney for talks on regional security with Australian officials, that will also involve Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
A U.S. proposal for a freeze on provocative acts in the South China Sea got a cool response from China and some Southeast Asian nations at a regional meeting at the weekend, an apparent setback to U.S. efforts to thwart China's assertive moves.
The U.S. official said the United States would follow up on those talks by assessing an ASEAN-China meeting due in a few weeks time on implementing a 2002 declaration on conduct in the South China Sea, something that "equates to the freeze."
"We will also be monitoring the actual situation around the rocks, reefs, and shoals in the South China Sea," he said.
China's Xinhua state news agency accused Washington of "stoking the flames," and "further emboldening countries like the Philippines and Vietnam to take a hardline stance against China, raising suspicion over the real intention of the United States and make an amicable solution more difficult to reach."
"It is a painful reality that Uncle Sam has left too many places in chaos after it stepped in, as what people are witnessing now in Iraq, Syria and Libya," Xinhua added in a commentary. "The South China Sea should not be the next one."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department hit back by saying the United States was not responsible for fomenting instability in the South China Sea.
"It's the aggressive acts the Chinese have taken that are doing do," Marie Harf told a regular news briefing.
"Everything that we are doing is designed to lower tensions, to get people (to) resolve their difference diplomatically and not through coercive and destabilizing measures like we've seen the Chinese take increasingly over the past several months."