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US Urges Calm, Dialogue in Hong Kong

The United States is urging authorities and demonstrators in Hong Kong to engage in dialogue to end the massive protests that have choked Hong Kong thoroughfares for the past week. The protesters, angered by China's insistence that only its handpicked candidates can run in coming elections, have threatened to take over government buildings.

The State Department says the U.S. continues to maintain its open line of communication with China.

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki says the U.S. wants both sides to exercise caution and pursue ways to resolve the dispute.

“We would certainly be concerned if there is an escalation by authorities. We will see what happens, but we will continue to encourage that and urge restraint in all our conversations.”

She commented on Thursday, a day after Secretary of State John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, held talks on a wide range of issues, including the protests.

During a joint appearance with Kerry, China's foreign minister made it clear that any outside interference in the unrest would not be welcomed.

“Hong Kong's affairs are China's internal affairs. All countries should respect China's sovereignty, and this is also a basic principle governing international relations," said Wang Yi.

China considers the protests illegal. Police have warned of serious consequences if demonstrators try to surround or occupy buildings.

Psaki would not say if an escalation in the use of force against the pro-democracy demonstrators would result in a shift in U.S.-China policy.

“I am not going to get ahead of where we are. Certainly, we hope that is not the case," she said.

The White House says President Barack Obama has also underscored U.S. hopes for a peaceful resolution of the standoff.

The issue could receive more attention when the president opens a three-day visit to Beijing next month.