Washington: The US says China should not use bilateral talks in an attempt to "divide and conquer" South China Sea claimant nations.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland comments on Tuesday follow a visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to claimant states Malaysia and Brunei.
Nuland would not be drawn on whether the US suspects Beijing`s intentions. A meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations last month ended in acrimony over the South China Sea.
She urged ASEAN and China to work on a code of conduct for the South China Sea.
She said bilateral diplomacy supporting a multilateral deal is fine, "but an effort to divide and conquer and end up with a competitive situation among the different claimants is not going to get where we need to go”.