By DoD News
By Lisa Ferdinando
Defense Secretary Ash Carter reiterated Wednesday the U.S. call for a peaceful resolution to the tensions in the South China Sea.
Carter spoke during a media availability at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting — Plus in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
“We urge all claimants to permanently halt land reclamation, stop the construction of new facilities and cease further militarization of disputed maritime features,” he said.
Carter said he told the defense ministers the United States “does not take sides in these maritime disputes, but we do take the side of peaceful resolution under international law.”
Several Asia-Pacific countries, including China, are involved in territorial disputes in the South China Sea.
Freedom of Navigation Not New Concept
The defense secretary announced he will visit the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, as it conducts routine operations while transiting the South China Sea.
The aircraft carrier, Carter said, is a symbol of the United States’ commitment to the rebalance and the importance of the Asia-Pacific region.
The United States, he said, will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law permits.
“Freedom of navigation and the free flow of commerce are not new concepts. They’re not theoretical or aspirational goals,” Carter said. “In this part of the world, these were rules that worked for decades to promote peace and prosperity.”
He noted the tensions in the South China Sea were part of the discussions during meetings with his counterparts at the ASEAN meeting.
“I understand this is a difficult issue for many countries, but I’m confident that this forum will continue to play a useful role in resolving these tensions through dialogue and cooperation,” the defense secretary said.
Carter said he has accepted an invitation from Chinese President Xi Jingping to visit that nation, and looks forward to making the trip in the spring.
Rebalance to Pacific
This trip is Carter’s third to the Asia-Pacific region as defense secretary, he noted, and President Barack Obama will be traveling to that part of the world in the coming weeks.
“This is a region vital to America’s future, which is why our rebalance to the Asia-Pacific remains top priority,” Carter said.
The defense secretary called for an inclusive regional architecture that is strong, capable and effective enough to ensure all nations continue to rise and prosper.
To realize that, Carter said, there needs to be a security architecture that is inclusive and open.
“It should respect rights, not might. It should reward cooperation, not coercion. It should be based on international law and globally accepted norms,” he said. “In that future, ASEAN will continue to play a central role.”