Washington: The US and Japan has stressed on the need to have freedom of navigation in the South China Sea amidst reports of Chinese warning to other countries in the region, including India, claiming its sovereignty over it, which is being disputed by other countries.

The issue came up for discussion when the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met her Japanese counterpart Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba in New York on sidelines of the 66th session of the UN General Assembly on Monday, a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity.

"They both underscored the importance of freedom of navigation in the Asia Pacific region, South China Sea issue," he said.

"Both Secretary Clinton and Foreign Minister Gemba expressed the hope that we can make significant progress on the South China Sea issue in the context of the East Asia Summit later in the year in Bali," the official said.

The US President Barack Obama would be meeting the new Japanese Prime Minister Noda Yoshihiko in New York later this week.

During the meeting, Clinton spoke about the New Silk Road Initiative that the US is pursuing and hoped that Japan will be an active player in this effort to strengthen regional economic integration in South and Central Asia, he said.

Clinton told her Japanese counterpart that the US considers US-Japan alliance as the cornerstone of peace and stability in the Asia Pacific region.

"She noted that despite the difficult year that Japan has had, our alliance remains very much a global one. We work together all around the world, and she noted in particular that Japan was front and centre this morning at the Haiti ministerial and she thanked Japan for its continued global leadership and commitment," the official said.

The two leaders also discussed over a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues.

"On the bilateral side, the foreign minister noted that there's concern in Japan, and the Secretary seconded this, that fewer Japanese are visiting the United States and studying in the US and fewer Americans are studying in Japan," the official said.

He said both the leaders committed to work on the issue as the students and business folk going both ways have really deepened and enriched the alliance as well as mutual understanding.

The issue of North Korea also came up during the half-an-hour meeting, the official added.

(Agencies)