MOSCOW: US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has said Beijing is taking steps which will lead to international isolation amid ongoing tensions over disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
The comment by the Pentagon top official was made on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos. Carter added that the US is not seeking an excuse for a clash with China, but noted that the American military will keep operating in the region.
“I am not one of those people who believe that conflict between China and the US is inevitable. It is certainly not desirable and I don’t think it is likely,” he said, adding that American forces, “will fly, sail and operate whatever international law permits in the South China Sea.”
Carter blamed Beijing for mounting tensions in the region and reiterated that Washington is not fueling the conflict, while urging no one to “take sides.”
“China is taking some steps that I fear are self-isolating, driving towards a result that none of us wants,” Carter said, referring to China’s activities in the region.
China has recently constructed airstrips on artificial islands built in territories it has arbitrarily claimed in the South China Sea. The islands are being tested for new military and civil aviation facilities. Beijing has repeatedly claimed it doesn’t intend to militarize the region, but suggested that it is ready to defend its South China Sea facilities, if necessary.
China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have launched overlapping claims on areas in the disputed sea.