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Defense Secretary: US Wary of China's S. China Sea Actions

FILE - Defense Secretary Ash Carter, pictured at a Pentagon news conference, Jan. 28, 2016, says that although the U.S. and China have disagreements, Washington is committed to working through them in ways that do not destabilize the region.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Friday that the United States had serious concerns about China's actions in the disputed South China Sea.

In a speech on Asian security in New York, Carter said countries in the Asia-Pacific region were voicing concern about China's military actions, which he said "stand out in size and scope." He said those countries were expressing their concerns to the United States both publicly and privately, and at the highest levels.

He said that although the United States had disagreements with China, Washington was committed to working through them in ways that do not destabilize the region.

Also in his speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, a policy institute in New York City, Carter said placement of a U.S. missile defense system in South Korea was "going to happen," despite China's objections. He said that the defense system was a "necessary thing" to protect U.S. forces and their allies, and that it had "nothing to do with the Chinese."

South Korea decided to discuss the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, or THAAD, after North Korea claimed to have successfully launched a satellite into space.

'Consequential' region

Carter called the Asia-Pacific region "the single most consequential region for America's future." He urged Congress to pass the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, saying it would bind the United States more closely with Asia and would unlock economic opportunities for all countries involved.

Carter also highlighted the U.S. relationship with India and the Philippines, where he will be traveling next week.

While in India, Carter said he would meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar to discuss recent collaborations over military equipment, including the purchase of U.S. jet fighters, and to talk about new projects. He said the U.S.-India relationship was destined to be one of the most significant partnerships of the 21st century.

From India, Carter will travel to the Philippines, where he said he would witness military exercises involving the United States and the Philippines.