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United States vows to keep peace amid South China Sea row

Jose Katigbak (The Philippine Star) - November 6, 2015 - 9:00am

WASHINGTON – Expressing concern about China’s activities in the South China Sea, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said it’s American military power that keeps the peace in the region and the United States intends to continue playing that role into the future.

Carter told sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt as it patrolled the South China Sea that the carrier’s presence is “a symbol and a sign of the critical role the United States’ military power plays in what is a very consequential region for the American future.”

A transcript of his comments aboard the carrier on Thursday was released by the Pentagon.     

Carter’s visit to the carrier follows last week’s reconnaissance by destroyer USS Lassen within 12 miles of China’s artificial islands in the Spratly Islands archipelago which infuriated the Chinese, who saw it as a direct challenge to their sovereignty claims.

A Pentagon spokesman made clear on Thursday that the USS Lassen was on a freedom of navigation operation near the islands, not on innocent passage. 

He said US freedom of navigation operations across the globe have been conducted regularly for decades.

In the last fiscal year for example, freedom of navigation operations were conducted on 18 nations who had excessive maritime claims.

“We don’t distinguish between whether they’re on our good list or our not-too-good list in deciding where to do these. If we see an excessive claim, we’ll challenge it,” he said.

Before the USS Lassen operation, the last time the US sent a warship within 12 miles of the Chinese-claimed islands was in 2012.

Carter said that every country, including the Philippines, with competing claims to disputed territory in the South China Sea should stop reclaiming land and militarizing it.         

A PENTAGON ACIRC CARTER CHINA DEFENSE SECRETARY ASHTON CARTER LASSEN NBSP SOUTH CHINA SEA SPRATLY ISLANDS THEODORE ROOSEVELT UNITED STATES
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