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WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Ash Carter today toured the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the South China Sea and expressed concern about China's activities in those waters.
Carter said the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier’s presence is a "symbol and a sign of the critical role the United States' military power plays in what is a very consequential region for the American future."
The defense secretary also commented on regional tensions resulting from disputes over land features in the South China Sea. Several Asia-Pacific countries, including China, are involved in those disputes.
"There is a lot of concern about Chinese behavior out here," he said.
Those concerns, Carter said, were discussed yesterday at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Defense Ministers’ Meeting - Plus in Malaysia’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.
"Many countries in the region are coming to the United States and asking us to do more with them so that we can keep the peace out here," he said.
Carter toured the aircraft carrier with Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein. Visiting the ship with his Malaysian counterpart, Carter said, indicates the demand for American presence in the Asia-Pacific region.
Stability in the Asia-Pacific region is important to the United States economically, Carter said, noting that half of the world's commerce comes from or passes through that part of the world.
The U.S. military's rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region is intended to maintain and further promote peace and prosperity in the region, according to Carter.
The USS Roosevelt, with about 3,000 crew members, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations as part of a worldwide deployment en route to its new homeport in San Diego. The move is part of a three-carrier homeport shift.
Carter, who is on an eight-day trip focusing on the Asia-Pacific rebalance, will travel on to Hawaii, then California, before returning to the Pentagon.