Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Friday warned China against aggression in the South China Sea, saying the nation is bucking positive regional cooperation in Asia in pursuit of its own ambitions.
Carter, lauding how the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region were making strides, had stern words for China at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, an annual conference addressing security in the Asia-Pacific region.
“China’s actions in the South China Sea are isolating it at a time when the entire region is coming together and networking,” Carter said. “Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a Great Wall of self-isolation.”
China and various nations in southeast Asia all make claims to various waters in the sea, which has set off a number of flashpoints and standoffs in recent years. The U.S. has protested China’s shows of force in the region.
Asked by a Chinese professor in a question-and-answer session why the U.S. was focusing on China, Carter said it should not be interpreted as a dispute between the two nations.
“What we stand for is the principle of the rule of law and abiding by international law,” Carter said. “It’s not a focus on China. It’s a focus on principle.”
“It’s China’s actions that are causing that attention,” Carter added.
Carter also announced that the U.S., Japan and South Korea would hold a ballistic missile warning test this month.