China pledged to not use of force in its escalating conflict with Southeast Asian nations over the South China Sea, and has criticized the United States for involving itself in the imbroglio.

We will not resort to the use of force or the threat of force, said Chinese ministry spokesperson Hong Lei, in a statement.

Yesterday, Vietnam staged a six-hour live-fire drill in the South China Sea. After several Southeast Asian nations, including the Philippines, called on the United States for its support, the US pledged that it would hold joint live-fire drills with Vietnam next month.

Beijing expressed deep reservations with the Washington's interference in the battle for the busiest shipping route in the world and the precious oil reserves beneath its waters -- thought to amount to contain 80 percent of the oil reserves in the entire Saudi kingdom.

We hope countries not related to the disputes over the South China Sea will respect the efforts of directly related countries to resolve the issue through direct negotiations, Beijing's foreign ministry told the Associated Press, in a thinly veiled comment on US interventionism.

On June 9, a Chinese fishing vessel rammed into a PetroVietnam ship's survey cables while the latter was conducting a seismological survey of South China Sea oil reserves.

Vietnam also reported that late last month that Chinese ships sliced cables on another PetroVietnam survey ship.

In both circumstances, the Chinese vessels were civilian fishing ships, but Vietnamese Foreign Minister Nguyen Phuong Nga said that the attack was part of a premeditated move by Beijing.

Hong Lei announced, in a subsequent statement, that China possesses indisputable sovereignty of the water space.

The South China Sea debate has driven a wedge between the two Communist nations and sparked overwhelming nationalist sentiments that are putting great pressure on Beijing and Hanoi.