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US Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Kurt Campbell. - AFP (File Photo)

WASHINGTON: The United States said it will seek to help defuse tensions in the strategic and resource-rich South China Sea when it holds talks with China in Hawaii on Saturday.

Tensions in the South China Sea have escalated in recent weeks; with the Philippines and Vietnam alarmed at what they say are increasingly aggressive actions by Beijing in the disputed waters.

“The United States has no intention to fan the flames in the South China Sea and we have a very strong interest in the maintenance of peace and stability,” Kurt Campbell, the top US diplomat for East Asia, told reporters on Friday.

He said he expected the South China Sea disputes to be raised Saturday at a US-China meeting in Honolulu which is part of the two countries strategic and economic dialogue. He will attend the talks.

“We've been very clear that the United States does not take a position on sovereignty issues,” said Campbell, the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and Pacific Affairs.

“But we also have strong principles that are long-standing in the maintenance of freedom of navigation, and free and unimpeded legal commerce and the maintenance of peace and stability,” he said.

“Those principles are long-standing and will continue, and we underscore them in all of our interactions in the Asia-Pacific region,” he added.

“It is not our desire to see, as I said, these flames fanned. We want recent tensions to subside and cooler heads to prevail,” he said.

Campbell the US delegation will ask the Chinese “some specific questions” about “the direction of Chinese military developments” as well as sound them out on diplomacy with North Korea and Myanmar.