BEIJING - China is not responsible for causing disputes in the South China Sea, Vice-Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said on Tuesday.
Cui was addressing questions on what message China will send to the upcoming first round of China-US consultations on the Asia-Pacific region, which will start on Saturday in Honolulu, Hawaii, according to Hong Kong-based Phoenix TV.
"The South China Sea issue is not on the agenda of the consultation. But if the US side were to bring it up, China is willing to further define its stance - that is, we are not the creator of the disputes," Cui said.
"Though there have been some disconcerting trends in the area, they are not caused by China in the first place, and we are not changing our view on the issue. We hope other countries can take a restrained, responsible, and constructive attitude toward the issue together with us.
"If we all can do so, problems can easily be solved," he said.
"We don't want such disputes to affect the stability of the region, or relations between the countries involved," he added.
Cui and US Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell will co-host the consultations, and the two countries will exchange views on the situation in the region and other issues of mutual concern.
"Through deep and frank communications, the two countries can get a better understanding of each other's policy intentions and views on some important issues. This will help us deal with regional and global challenges together. And I believe this is also what regional countries are expecting of China and the United States," Cui told reporters in a joint interview on the consultations.
As long as China and the United States abide by the principles of the three China-US joint communiques and the China-US Joint Statement, enhance dialogue and communication, strengthen mutual trust and cooperation and properly handle their differences, the two countries can continue to improve ties, Cui said.
Since President Hu Jintao visited the US in January, Sino-US relations have entered a new phase in which both parties are committed to working together to build a cooperative partnership based on mutual respect and mutual benefit, Cui said.
China and the US held their second annual high-level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange in April and the third Strategic and Economic Dialogues in May. Both parties have deepened cooperation in a variety of areas and coordinated on important international and regional issues, he said.
However, Cui said, China and the US have to properly handle matters related to Taiwan, Tibet, economic issues and trade, and human rights.
The sound and steady development of China-US relations is beneficial to both countries and the world, Cui said.
There will be good chances to further develop Sino-US ties in the future, he said.
The two countries should properly handle differences and sensitive issues based on the principle of equality and mutual respect, he said.
Xinhua contributed to this story.