US lawmakers slam China over standoff with Vietnam

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. lawmakers are strongly criticizing China over its standoff with Vietnam in the disputed South China Sea.

A bipartisan group of six senators, most of them on a committee that oversees U.S. foreign policy, called China's deployment of an oil rig and aggressive tactics of its vessels as "deeply troubling."

They said Friday unilateral attempts to change the status quo or use force would only lead to instability.

Separately, a senior House Democrat, Rep. Eliot Engel, accused China of "needless provocations" and said its behavior was "clearly adversarial." He called for direct talks between China and Vietnam, but also said the U.S. has an interest in ensuring the South China Sea remains stable and peaceful.

China claims sovereignty over the disputed area. Vietnam says it lies within its continental shelf.