Several US lawmakers criticized China Friday for its \"deeply troubling\" actions in disputed areas of the South China Sea, and urged passage of legislation that seeks peaceful solutions to rising maritime tensions. Communist neighbors China and Vietnam have seen tensions soar since Beijing announced last week it would move a drilling rig into contested waters. \"China's recent movement of an oil drilling rig escorted by military and other ships into disputed waters in the South China Sea off the coast of Vietnam -- and the subsequent aggressive tactics used by Chinese ships, including the ramming of Vietnamese ships -- is deeply troubling,\" the senators said in a statement. China and Vietnam, which fought a brief border war in 1979, have been locked in a longstanding territorial dispute over the waters and related oil exploration, fishing rights and sovereignty in the Spratly and Paracel Islands.
US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will urge China to play by the rules economically when he meets top officials in Beijing next week, officials said. Lew will spend Tuesday in talks with Chinese counterparts, with China's reform agenda, the coming annual US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and \"efforts to level the playing field for US workers and firms\" on the stated agenda. \"As China continues to grow, our top priority will continue to be to encourage China to do so in a way that is fair, balanced and consistent with the international rules,\" a senior Treasury official told reporters in a briefing about the trip. The official said Washington wants Beijing to strengthen the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights, including stopping trade secret thefts.
First Lady Michelle Obama is to speak out against the kidnapping of more than 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic militants when she gives the weekly presidential address instead of her husband, the White House said Friday. White House deputy spokesman Eric Schultz said Michelle Obama would focus on the issue of the mass abductions in an address on Saturday to mark Mother's Day, which falls on Sunday in the United States. \"As the mother of two young daughters, Mrs Obama is taking up the opportunity to express outrage and heartbreak the President and she share over the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian girls of their school,\" Schultz told reporters aboard Air Force One. US presidents issue a weekly radio address on a subject of their choosing.
Six U.S. senators urged their colleagues on Friday to support legislation reaffirming U.S. support for freedom of navigation, saying they consider China's recent actions in the South China Sea troubling. China this week accused Vietnam of intentionally colliding with its ships in the South China Sea after Vietnam asserted that Chinese vessels used water cannon and rammed eight of its vessels during the weekend near an oil rig China deployed in a disputed area. \"These actions threaten the free flow of global commerce in a vital region,\" Democratic Senators Robert Menendez of New Jersey, Ben Cardin of Maryland and Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Republicans Marco Rubio of Florida, Jim Risch of Idaho and John McCain of Arizona said in a joint statement.
The United States Friday called on Pakistan to investigate the killing of a lawyer shot dead for defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy under strict laws against defaming Islam. \"We were deeply saddened by the murder of Rashid Rehman, an attorney and human rights defender in Pakistan,\" State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. \"We encourage Pakistani authorities, as we have in similar cases in Pakistan and around the world, to swiftly investigate this crime and bring to justice those responsible.\" Gunmen stormed Rehman's office late Wednesday and started firing indiscriminately, killing him and injuring two others, in the latest high-profile killing linked to Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws.