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Regional tensions, Adm. Locklear said, are stoked by such moves, as well as by Beijing’s “lack of desire to go forward with international law forums,” which the Obama administration has spent the past six years attempting promoting as a way to formally and peacefully defuse the potential for a military clash between China and others in the region.

“What we ask [the Chinese] to do is to be more transparent, to seek international law forums and participate more openly in them,” Adm. Locklear said. “They may have a good argument behind any given action they’re taking, but they must put those arguments toward international bodies and be more transparent about what actions they’re taking and why.”

Earlier this month, Secretary of State John F. Kerry presented a formal proposal to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for China and other members of the association, including Vietnam and Japan, to voluntarily halt provocative actions over disputed island’s in the region.

Chinese officials responded by claiming that they were already committed to working with ASEAN on regional conflict resolution, and suggested that Washington has been attempting to intervene in order to sowing discord among nations in the region.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who met with Mr. Kerry on the sidelines of an ASEAN meeting in Myanmar on Aug. 9, said “countries out of the region can reasonably voice their concern, but we disagree with them for coming to the region finger-pointing.”

“I could not understand why some countries out of the region stayed restless to propagate its tense situation,” Mr. Wang said, according to a story published by China’s official Xinhua News Agency on Aug. 11. “Is it they want to confuse the region?”