U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is pressing for peaceful resolutions to increasingly tense maritime disputes in Asia, reports AP.
Kerry arrived in the Laotian capital Sunday and will travel to China late Tuesday for meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other senior officials, the State Department said.
Laos is the current head of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose members are becoming more vocal in complaints about China's growing assertiveness over competing claims in the South China Sea.
According to WSJ, he will also raise concerns with Beijing about its continued aggressive behavior in the South China Sea, where China, Vietnam, the Philippines and several other countries have competing territorial claims, the official said.
The United States and governments with rival claims with China in the disputed region, including the Philippines and Vietnam, have expressed alarm over the Chinese construction. They say it raises tensions and threatens regional stability and could violate freedom of navigation and overflight.
The members of the 10-nation bloc have been more vocal in protesting what they see as China’s increasingly assertive behavior.
China has undertaken land-reclamation activities and constructed airstrips on disputed lands in the South China Sea, alarming the U.S. and countries with rival claims in the region.
Laos has close political and economic ties with its giant neighbor China. The Obama administration worries that it might behave as Cambodia did when it held the ASEAN chair in 2012 and was accused of obstructing consensus in the bloc over the South China Sea, says a report in Reuters.
Besides its China ties, as a landlocked country Laos has less interest in the maritime disputes that several ASEAN members have with Beijing.