China on Sunday rejected US criticism of its claims over the disputed South China Sea saying they were based on "history and protected by international law" and asked Washington to play a constructive role in promoting peace in the region.
"China's maritime rights in the South China Sea are formed by history and protected by the international law," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said refuting US assertions that Beijing's claims were inconsistent with the international law.
Noting that some US officials' remarks in congressional testimony are not constructive, Hong urged the US to take a rational and fair attitude towards the issue, and play a constructive role to promote peace and stability in the region.
Daniel Russel, top US diplomat for East Asia, had said in congressional testimony on Wednesday that China's territorial claims in the South China Sea do not comply with international law and should be clarified or adjusted.
"Any use of the 'nine-dash line' by China to claim maritime rights not based on claimed land features would be inconsistent with international law," Russel had said.
The nine-dash line - hotly contested by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei and Malaysia - takes in about 80% of the 3.5 million square km South China Sea on Chinese maps.
This boundary was first officially published on a map in 1947 and has been included in subsequent maps issued after 1949. China had included them on its map on the Chinese passports drawing strong protests from the four countries.
Hong said China is committed to resolve maritime disputes with concerned parties directly through negotiation and consultation.
"At the same time, China attaches great importance to implementing the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) with ASEAN nations, in a bid to jointly safeguard peace and stability of the South China Sea," he said.
Recently, China denied reports it is contemplating to set up another Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ), much on the lines of the one it declared over the East China Sea drawing criticism from the US, Japan and South Korea.