BEIJING - The United States is committed to maintaining its presence in the South China Sea, the top military official said in China on Sunday, adding that Washington was worried disputes over the resource-rich waters could lead to serious conflict.
China has been embroiled in a row with the Philippines and Vietnam in recent months over what each government sees as intrusions and illegitimate claims in the stretch of ocean spanning key shipping lanes.
"The worry, among others that I have, is that the ongoing incidents could spark a miscalculation, and an outbreak that no one anticipated," Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the start of a four-day visit to China.
"We have an enduring presence here, we have an enduring responsibility. We seek to strongly support the peaceful resolution of these differences," he told a news conference.