MANILA, Philippines – US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Wednesday, May 27, called for a halt on all land reclamation in the South China Sea.
"We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features," Carter said on Wednesday, May 27 (Thursday in Manila).
"Second, and there should be no mistake about this, the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world," he added.
The US official made the call as the US takes a bolder stance against China's activities in the disputed South China Sea.
He was in Hawaii during the change of command ceremony between outgoing US Pacific Command chief Admiral Samuel Lockler and incoming chief Admiral Harry Harris. USPACOM is the largest combatant command of the US military that is responsible for Asia and the Pacific.
Petty Officer 1st Class Jay Chu, US Pacific Command
Carter also held a bilateral meeting with Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, who attended the USPACOM's change of command ceremony. (READ: US affirms 'ironclad' vow to defend the Philippines)
The Philippine defense department said in a statement that the US reiterated its committment to the US-Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.
"The US expressed alarm on unilateral activities that are inconsistent with international law. Unilateral actions escalate tensions which may lead to actual conflict. The Secretaries emphasized that the rule of law should prevail with Secretary Carter expressing support for the PH use of international arbitration," the Philippine statement said.
The two countries agreed to conduct more combined military activities and "regular policy consultations to ensure that positions and actions are coordinated."
The US defense department said a 2-plus-2 meeting will also be conducted. – Carmela Fonbuena/Rappler.com