|US DoD Secretary Ashton Carter|
US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is planning to visit the Philippines and sites where the US plans to deploy troops, including one base bordering the South China Sea, an American news channel says.
According to a Saturday report by the CNN, Carter’s visit to the Philippines is part of an Asia tour, set as of April 10, which will include India, and then the Middle East. Carter is also to visit a base about 160 kilometers (about 100 miles) from the Spratly Islands archipelago, which China claims.
In a speech on Friday, Carter made remarks on countries in the Asia-Pacific region that have been voicing concern about China’s military actions, saying, “Recently not all the news out of the Asia-Pacific has been positive: indeed, in the South China Sea, China’s actions – in particular – are raising regional tensions,”
“That’s why countries across the Asia-Pacific are voicing concern with militarization, and especially – over the last year – with China’s actions, which stand out in size and scope… they’re voicing those concerns publicly and privately, at the highest levels, in regional meetings and global fora,” he added.
Carter said that although the US has disagreements with China, Washington is committed to working through them in ways that do not destabilize the region.
He called the Asia-Pacific region “the single most consequential region for America’s future.”
The South China Sea has become a source of tension between China, the US, and some regional countries who are seeking control of trade routes and mineral deposits.
The disputed islands are claimed by countries such as Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei, which all have overlapping claims with China over the territories in the South China Sea, including the Paracels, Spratly Islands, Pratas Islands and Scarborough Shoal.
Washington and China’s rivals have been accusing Beijing of attempting to take advantage of the situation and gradually assert control in the South China Sea.
Beijing, however, rejects the allegations and accuses Washington of meddling in the regional issues and deliberately stirring up tensions in the South China Sea.
The South China Sea serves as a crossing for more than $5 trillion worth of annual maritime trade.