China's land reclamation and military projects in the South China Sea are raising serious questions about their intentions in the disputed region, a top U.S. official said Thursday.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Vietnam, "The United States and Vietnam share interest in maintaining peace and stability in the region.
"So does China. But its massive land reclamation projects in the South China Sea and increasing militarization of these outposts fuels regional tension and raise serious questions about China's intentions," Blinken said.
Beijing claims much of the South China Sea, while several other nations, including the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam, have rival claims.
Last year China completed construction of a 3,000-meter runway on one of its man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago, and began test flights of commercial airlines there in January.
"The United States will defend our national interest and support our allies and partners in the region," Blinken said.
He called on China, and all nations, to respect an upcoming decision by an international arbitration court in a case brought by Philippines challenging China's claims.