HOUSTON, June 10 (Xinhua) -- The heightened tension in the South China Sea is not an isolated incident, but the result of the U.S. "pivot to Asia" policy, University of Houston Downtown Associate Professor Peter Li told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"To the United States, East Asia in particular occupies a strategic position in American foreign policy. However, we have to understand that the U.S. foreign policy has always been based on a shrewd calculation of the American national interest," he said.

"For example, in 1947, it was the United States that assisted the Chinese government in its recovery of the South China Sea islands. Yet, today, the United States has apparently changed its position. The change of the position, based on a new understanding of the situation in East Asia and the rising strength of China, does send a clear message to countries having territorial disputes with China, such as the Philippines," he said.

The process of strengthening the existing relationships has apparently given Manila the signal that its actions in the South China Sea are backed by the United States.

Boosting its alliance with the allies in the region, strengthening new relations with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries, and consolidating existing security ties serve Washington's strategic objective of neutralizing China's position in the region, Li said.

"To the United States, China could be pulled into extended conflicts. Resources would have to be diverted to military preparations, affecting people's livelihood," he said.

"In fact, the U.S. naval actions in the region have sent a clear message to the parties involved in the dispute that Washington has a position at odds with China. And in my opinion, the United States' taking sides in the conflict in the South China Sea both serves and undermines America's objectives," he said.

Li said the escalation of the conflict in the region, which will have a negative spillover effect, will poison the atmosphere needed for U.S.-China collaboration on a host of other issues vital to the maintenance of peace and stability in Asia and the world.

"The resulting tensions between Washington and Beijing can cause a stop to the many other critical areas of collaboration between the two countries. These include peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula, non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, security cooperation, climate change, international financial stability and others," he said.

Li agreed with Chinese President Xi Jinping's remarks that both China and the United States should take proactive steps to manage the crisis in a spirit of mutual respect so that the two countries can turn the Pacific Ocean into a platform for cooperation, peace and prosperity.

Moreover, he said that one should understand that there will always be differences between the United States and China, but both countries would have more to gain if they work for a common objective -- peace and stability in Southeast Asia and the South China Sea specifically.