US criticizes Chinese maritime claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. is voicing concern that China is gradually asserting control in the disputed South China Sea on the basis of vague territorial claims unsupported by international law.

Sharpening U.S. criticism of the rising Asian power, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, Daniel Russel, described in congressional testimony Wednesday a litany of actions by China that are raising tensions.

Russel says China has restricted access to a contested reef in the South China Sea; taken bids on areas far from its own shores for hydrocarbon exploration; and imposed fishing regulations in disputed waters.

He's also criticizing China's "provocative" declaration of an air defense identification zone over the East China Sea and a spike in "risky activity" by China near disputed islands controlled by Japan.