Pentagon chief heads to Asian summit as nations fret over S. China Sea


The guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence transits the Philippine Sea in March.

Washington (AFP) - US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter will depart Tuesday for an Asian security summit in Singapore, where Beijing's military expansion across the South China Sea likely will once again dominate discussions.

Regional neighbors are fretting over what they see as China's expansionism as it rushes to exert sovereignty over the waterway, a major global shipping route believed to be home to large oil and gas reserves.

China is using dredgers and other tools to convert low-lying ocean features and sandy blips into military bases.

A Pentagon report this month said China has added more than 3,200 acres (1,300 hectares) of land to the seven features it occupies in the Spratly Islands archipelago.

The so-called Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual meeting in Singapore, will see defense ministers, military chiefs and defense experts from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond discuss regional security issues.

Aside from the South China Sea, delegates are expected to focus on the growing threat of Islamic terrorism in the region and North Korea's nuclear program.

Since becoming President Barack Obama's fourth Pentagon chief in February 2015, Carter has taken a forceful tone on Beijing's South China Sea construction.

He criticized the drive at last year's Shangri-La meeting and on Friday, Carter said China risks creating a "Great Wall of self-isolation."

"Countries across the region -– allies, partners and the unaligned –- are voicing concerns publicly and privately at the highest levels," Carter said.

The United States has conducted several "freedom of navigation" operations where it pointedly ignores China's claims of sovereign exclusion zones around the islands by closely flying or sailing past.

Carter's trip will see him first visit an Army base in Arizona.

He had also considered meeting his Japanese counterpart Gen Nakatani during a visit to Japan, but the two decided to meet in Singapore instead, a US defense official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The official said the meeting would have been too politically sensitive, given the furor surrounding the arrest of a former US Marine on Okinawa in connection to the death of a 20-year-old woman who had been missing since late April.

A series of crimes including rapes, assaults and hit-and-run accidents by US military personnel, dependents and civilians have long sparked local protests on the crowded island.

Carter and Obama were quick to condemn the crime and offer "regret."

While in Singapore, Carter will be joined by senior US military leaders, including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson and the commander of US Pacific Command, Admiral Harry Harris.

Article type: metered
User Type: anonymous web
User Status:
Campaign ID: 1
Cxense type: free
User access status: 3
   

Next In Regional

Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei condemn Israeli violence against Palestine
Health DG: Ivermectin will not be used to treat Covid-19, no evidence of efficacy
Do not give in to evil and division, Pope tells Myanmar community
Analysis: India's once-in-a-century budget runs into trouble as virus strikes back
Soros bought up stocks linked to Bill Hwang’s Archegos implosion
Malaysian student wins world public speaking competition
Taiwan urges no panic buying as new COVID-19 rules kick off
Changi Chapel and Museum will reopen its doors on May 19 after major makeover
Sarawak to receive 500,000 doses of Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine in a week
If China shrinks, it’s the world’s problem

Stories You'll Enjoy


Vouchers