U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he's hopeful that China and its smaller neighbors can come to an effective resolution to territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Those clashes have ratcheted up tensions in some of the world's busiest commercial maritime lanes.

Speaking Wednesday at a Southeast Asian regional security forum, Kerry said the U.S. wants to preserve stability in the South China Sea and ensure the security of shipping lanes and fishing grounds there. He said the disputes must be managed peacefully on the basis of international law.

Chinese land reclamation in contested waters has irked Southeast Asian nations who, like the U.S., want China to stop.

Beijing insists it has the right to continue.