Fearing foreign involvement would only complicate the matter, China has told the United States not to interfere with a long-standing regional dispute over claims to the South China Sea, Reuters reports.
The statement comes just three days before President Obama is scheduled to meet with regional leaders of the Associated of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), who say they are concerned over China's maritime territorial claims.
"China enjoys indisputable sovereign rights over the South China Sea islands and adjacent waters," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters today in Beijing, according to Bloomberg. "We oppose the internationalization and expansion of the South China Sea dispute because it will only make the issue more complicated."
According to reports, China believes the U.S. has been signaling intentions to intercede in the region by pushing against a more aggressive Chinese presence in the South China Sea and urging neighbors such as Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines to balance out that country's presence by asserting their own sovereignty. In July, Hillary Clinton said resolving territorial disputes off China's southern coast was "a leading diplomatic priority."
Jiang went on to call Clinton's comments "virtually an attack on China" and said the issue "should be properly settled between China and the countries directly involved."