A senior U.S. lawmaker says China should agree to face the Philippines before a U.N. arbitration tribunal to resolve the two Asian countries' territorial rifts peacefully and avoid a crisis in the region.

The Philippines announced last week that it was bringing a case before a U.N. arbitration tribunal to challenge China's claims to virtually the entire South China Sea, including potentially oil-rich areas. China has not responded clearly, but one of its diplomats has pressed Beijing's demand that rival claimants resolve the disputes through one-on-one negotiations.

Rep. Edward Royce, R-Calif., chairman of the House Foreign Affairs committee, told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it's best for China to agree to the international arbitration to avoid a possible "crisis which roils the markets or creates uncertainty" in the region.