U.S. opposes China's coercion over territorial disputes, Russel says

U.S. President Barack Obama's nominee for the assistant secretary of state for East Asia and the Pacific, Daniel Russel, said Thursday the United States is strongly opposed to China's coercion over territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas.

Russel, who is currently the senior director for Asian affairs at the National Security Council, said in testimony at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, "We firmly oppose coercion, whether it's military coercion or economic coercion and the threat and the use of force."

Japan's ties with China have deteriorated over the ownership of a group of islands in the East China Sea -- called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China, which says they are part of its territory.

During the hearing, Russel reiterated the Obama administration's pro-Asia diplomatic stance, saying, "I will make the effort to accelerate the achievement of denuclearization -- not just the theory -- to actually help bring about a halt, a rollback and elimination of North Korea's nuclear program a top priority."

In the testimony, Russel rejected China's call for settling territorial disputes through bilateral talks excluding the United States.

Russel devoted most of his testimony to China during the hearing.

The United States will support its allies over territorial disputes with China, he said.

The Senate is expected to shortly endorse the nomination of Russel as Washington's top diplomat for Asian-Pacific affairs, congressional sources said.

On Japan's domestic law needed to ratify an international treaty to help settle cross-border child custody disputes, Russel said he would make efforts to settle cases in which the law cannot be applied.

Japan plans to accede to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction by the year-end.