Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the so-called Asia-Pacific rebalance, a policy that places greater focus on the Asia-Pacific region, will unlock “tremendous potential” for the U.S. and its allies there.
Speaking aboard the USS Carl Vinson at port in San Diego, Thursday, Carter called the Asia-Pacific “the most consequential region for America’s future.”
He stressed that the U.S. must continue to work with its allies to improve maritime security in the East and South China Seas and elsewhere in the region.
Carter criticized Beijing for wanting to “pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut.”
“For example,” he said, “the universal right to freedom of navigation that allows China’s ships and aircraft to transit safely and peacefully is the same right that Beijing criticizes other countries for exercising in the region.”
Carter later left for a meeting Friday in Hawaii with his counterparts from the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, which focuses mainly on trade issues but in recent years has sought to engage in a range of defense and military issues.
The U.S. is not a member of the organization but has sought to use it to develop security partnerships amid concern about China’s military buildup in the region.