Pentagon chief says China actions will have 'consequences'

Patricia Lourdes Viray - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — United States (US) Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday stressed that China should not pursue militarization in the disputed South China Sea as it would result in conflict among claimant states.

"China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea. Specific actions will have specific consequences," Carter said in a speech before the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, California.

Carter recalled that Chinese President Xi Jinping earlier said that his country will not militarize the disputed sea despite its reclamation activities in the area.

The US Defense Secretary noted that almost 30 percent of the world's maritime trade passes by the South China Sea annually.

"That's why the United States joins virtually every nation in the region in being deeply concerned about the artificial island construction and militarization in the South China Sea, including steps, especially by China, as it has taken most recently, by placing anti-access systems and military aircraft on a disputed island," Carter said.

Carter, however, clarified that the US is not holding back or pushing any country down in its freedom of navigation activities in the region.

"The United States wants every nation to have the opportunity to rise and that includes China. We welcome its rise and its inclusion in this architecture. But we don’t welcome aggressive behavior," the US Defense chief said.

Carter said that the US will continue to provide defense systems to their allies and assist them in advancing maritime security, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Foreign ministers of Southeast Asian countries have recently voiced out their concern over the recent developments in the South China Sea.

This follows reports that Beijing has deployed surface-to-air missiles at Woody Island in the Paracel chain. It has also been reported that China has been building radar systems in some of the reefs in the Spratly Group of Islands.

The Chinese have also reportedly taken over Quirino atoll, a traditional Filipino fishing ground near Palawan, and have been keeping local fishermen at bay.

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