WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate unanimously approved a resolution on Monday that deplored China's use of force against Vietnamese and Philippine ships in the South China Sea.
China has shown increasing assertiveness in its claim to the entire South China Sea, believed to be rich in oil and gas.
In its nonbinding resolution, the U.S. Senate urged all parties to refrain from using force to assert territorial claims.
"The Senate ... deplores the use of force by naval and maritime security vessels from China in the South China Sea," the resolution said.
Senator Jim Webb, chair of an east Asian and Pacific affairs subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that "a growing number of nations around the South China Sea are now voicing serious concerns about China's pattern of intimidation."
Chinese vessels have harassed Vietnamese oil exploration ships and the Philippines has also complained that one of its ships has been rammed, according to the Senate resolution.
On Sunday, China and Vietnam pledged to resolve their maritime dispute through peaceful negotiations, a sign of possibly easing tension. The dispute was one of several subjects discussed in the first set of talks in Hawaii between the United States and China over the weekend.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz, Editing by Sandra Maler)