BEIJING, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechi said the United States should not get involved in the territorial dispute over the South China Sea and the two countries should stay in "close touch" despite cybersecurity and other conflicts.
Yang, a former foreign minister, said in an interview with state-owned China Daily that President Xi Jinping's upcoming visit to Washington, D.C., should "further chart the course of the China-U.S. relationship."
Xi and U.S. President Barack Obama have met four times since Xi assumed office in March 2013, and Obama is expected to offer a full state welcome during the Chinese leader's visit Sept. 24-25.
China's rise and the changing nature of U.S.-China relations have often presented challenges for Washington. U.S. naval commanders have previously denounced China's activities in the South China Sea.
A recent Pew research survey showed more than 50 percent of Americans hold an unfavorable view of Asia's No.1 economy, and former Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., said in an editorial on CNBC the Chinese government has been launching tactics against U.S. companies in China, including fines, an opaque regulatory system and intellectual property theft.
But trade and interdependence between the world's two largest economies have continued to grow, and according to China, annual bilateral trade surpassed $550 billion in 2014.
Despite protests from the United States, the Philippines and other countries with conflicting territorial claims, Yang said in the interview published Friday that China has a commitment to a peaceful resolution to maritime and other disputes, and asked that differences do not result in countries taking sides.
"If there are friends of China who would like to be friends of the [United States] or the other way around, both countries should welcome that, and we should have more mutual friends," he said.
But Yang neither claimed nor denied China's responsibility for recent hacking incidents into U.S. servers, saying instead China also has been a victim of cyberattacks and that he hoped countries work together in the spirit of "mutual benefit."