WASHINGTON -- The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday accused China of "gluttonous, naked aggression" in its drive to control territory and resources in the South China Sea.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers said it was time to be less "deferential" to Chinese officials and be more direct and aggressive in American diplomacy.
His comments came as the U.S. and China concluded an annual strategic and economic dialogue in Beijing where the U.S. was urging China to adhere to stricter rules governing territorial claims in Asia's contested, resource-rich seas. China, however, which says it has a historical right to most of the South China Sea, signaled that its position hasn't changed and urged the U.S. not to take sides.
Rogers also made the remarks as U.S. officials are blaming Chinese hackers for another serious data breach.
Computer security alarms were triggered at the Office of Personnel Management in March, when hackers breached the database containing private files of tens of thousands of U.S. government workers.
As The New York Times first reported Thursday, investigators believe the break-in was the work of Chinese hackers. China has been running a long-term campaign to steal U.S. corporate and government secrets.
In Washington, Rogers called for the U.S. to increase intelligence sharing and military cooperation with other nations in the region to push back against China and show that it is not the sole and dominant power.
"Any military in the world that uses its power to bully, intimidate and destabilize the economy of the world, is not in the United States' best interests, nor of our allies nor our friends," Rogers told the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.
"It is of U.S. national interest to help solve this problem, to push back on aggressive Chinese efforts in the region," he said.
A U.S. ally, the Philippines, as well as Vietnam, have become increasingly worried by Chinese efforts to drill for oil or assert authority in waters they consider their own in the South China Sea. In May, Chinese officials sent an oil rig in waters also claimed by Vietnam, setting off repeated confrontations between the two countries' ships.
Rogers characterized China's intimidation of its neighbors as "all for the one gluttonous, naked aggression, for their own ability to control territory and resources".
"We are fooling ourselves if we don't think the table is set, that the stew is about ready to boil on what's happening in the South China Sea," he said.
The Republican lawmaker, who chairs the House panel that oversees U.S. intelligence operations, said that despite American preoccupation with other trouble spots around the world, China should not question U.S. resolve in protecting freedom of navigation and commerce in the South China Sea, which carries 40 percent of world trade.
The Obama administration has been increasingly critical of China's assertive actions and has called on it to clarify its expansive claims in accordance with international law.
While the U.S. is not among the half-dozen claimants in the South China Sea, Washington says it has a national interest in peaceful resolution of the disputes.