A bipartisan group of US senators on May 9 issued a joint statement condemning China ’s recent acts to escalate tensions in the East Sea .

They were Robert Menendez, Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin, Jim Risch and John McCain – all members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

They urged their colleagues to pass a senate resolution reaffirming support of the US government for freedom of navigation in the Asia-Pacific region and for the peaceful diplomatic solution of outstanding territorial and maritime disputes.

China’s recent movement of an oil drilling rig escorted by military and other ships into waters in the East Sea off the coast of Vietnam and the subsequent aggressive tactics used by Chinese ships, including the ramming of Vietnamese ships is “deeply troubling”, the statement said, adding these actions threaten the free flow of global commerce in a vital region.

According to the statement, freedom of navigation, including freedom of operation for the US Navy, and other lawful uses of the sea and airspace in East Asia, are important to the prosperity of the US and to the safety of the entire region.

“We urge the administration to make clear to China at the highest levels that territorial claims and disputes must be resolved peacefully, diplomatically and consistent with international law. Unilateral attempts to change the status quo or the use of force, coercion and intimidation are unacceptable and will only lead to instability,” it said.

In April, the senators, who are co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 412, introduced a resolution which reaffirms US support for freedom of navigation and operation in the region and urges all parties involved in territorial claims and disputes to seek peaceful diplomatic resolution of those disputes.

“We hope that our colleagues will join us in sending a strong message in response to these provocative actions by passing the solution as soon as possible,” said the statement.

The same day, Congressman Eliot L. Engel, the leading Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, issued a press release against China ’s actions in the East Sea .

“Chinese drilling and intimidation of Vietnamese vessels near the Paracel islands are needless provocations that threaten peace and stability across the region. China ’s behavior is clearly adversarial,” he stressed. Vietnam ’s Hoang Sa archipelago is called “Paracel” by many foreign countries.

As a Pacific power, the US has an interest in ensuring that the East Sea remains secure, stable, and peaceful for all the players in the region, he said.-VNA