She will urge China to enter talks with neighbors over conflicting claims.
BEIJING - As tensions mount with its neighbors over islands in nearby strategic waterways, China has scored some subtle victories, making the United States and its allies increasingly uneasy about the potential for violent confrontations.
China's dispute with Japan over potentially energy-rich islands in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines over an island that China has effectively blocked to Filipino vessels, will be central in talks between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chinese leaders in Beijing on Tuesday evening and Wednesday, U.S. and Chinese officials said.
"We will need the nations of the region to work collaboratively together to resolve disputes -- without coercion, without intimidating, without threats and, certainly, without the use of force," Clinton said Monday evening after arriving in Indonesia's capital, Jakarta.
As part of a 10-day, six-nation swing through Asia, Clinton and her senior aides said the United States will urge China to enter discussions with its neighbors over conflicting territorial claims in the South China Sea.
The Chinese have resisted holding such talks with the regional bloc, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and since Clinton's last visit to Beijing in May, the Chinese have acted more boldly in the maritime disputes. Clinton received support from Indonesia's foreign minister, Marty Natalegawa, who has scrambled to forge a unified position among the association's members to create a code of conduct intended to avert clashes over the various claims.
"Absent a code of conduct, absent a diplomatic process, we can be certain of more incidents around the region," he said, appearing with Clinton.
It is not clear China is interested in any such code. The official media in China have adopted an increasingly confident tone in the South China Sea disputes. Editorials have warned the United States from trying to benefit from territorial disputes there and in the East China Sea, where an age-old dispute over islands near rich oil and gas fields has flared anew between China and Japan, a treaty ally with Washington. They are known in China as the Diaoyu, and in Japan as the Senkakus.
Speaking Monday at a regular Foreign Ministry news briefing in Beijing, a spokesman, Hong Lei, said the islands were "inherent" parts of China since "ancient times." He warned outside parties against meddling.
In a move that was interpreted as a modest victory for China, Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, sent a letter last week to China's president, Hu Jintao, calling for "calm handling" by both sides. The letter was seen as a conciliatory gesture after a group of 10 activists backed by Tokyo businessmen, who say they want to buy the islands, landed on the islands on Aug. 19 without permission.