American Senator John McCain has called for US air strikes to protect key areas in Syria.

US Sens John McCain and Joseph Lieberman say America must show stronger international leadership to halt the violence in Syria.

Both men say they believe Syria could become a significant issue in this year's presidential campaign.

McCain told reporters during a visit to Malaysia on Thursday that it is “embarrassing” that the US had not taken tougher steps to help the Syrian people.

The Republican senator and Lieberman, an independent, reiterated their stance that the US should help arm the Syrian opposition. President Barack Obama's administration so far has refused that option.

McCain added that he believes having a strong US presence in Asia will boost hopes of a peaceful resolution to the territorial dispute over the South China Sea. - Sapa-AP