China's coercion in maritime disputes is damaging its international standing, US official says

WASHINGTON – A senior U.S. official says China’s coercive efforts to enforce its territorial claims in disputed waters are not just raising tensions but damaging its international standing.

The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, was speaking at a congressional hearing Wednesday, two weeks ahead of high-level talks between the two global powers in Beijing.

Russel says Washington wants to build “strategic trust” with Beijing and economic co-operation but will also push for the release of political prisoners.

Russel criticizes China’s recent actions in the East and South China Seas and says they’ve left its neighbours “understandably alarmed.”

China is locked in a standoff with Vietnam after deploying oil rigs in waters claimed by nations, and has running territorial disputes with U.S. treaty allies, Japan and the Philippines.