WASHINGTON (AP) -- The top U.S. diplomat for East Asia says China's massive land reclamation raises regional tensions and does nothing to strengthen its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea.
Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel was speaking at a congressional hearing Wednesday ahead of a trip to China this weekend by Secretary of State John Kerry.
U.S. senators are pressing the Obama administration on its response to China's building of artificial islands amid concern that Beijing wants to assert military control over islands and reefs contested by six Asian claimants.
China, meanwhile, is voicing serious concern about reports that the U.S. is considering sending military ships and planes to challenge Chinese claims to islands it is building.
Russel said, "diplomacy will continue to be our instrument of first resort."