(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter kicked off his first Asian tour on Wednesday with a stern warning against the militarization of territorial rows in a region where China is at odds with several nations in the East and South China Seas.
Carter’s visit to Japan coincides with growing U.S. concern over China’s land reclamation in the Spratly archipelago of the disputed South China Sea, where Beijing has rival claims with several countries including the Philippines and Vietnam.
Tokyo and Beijing have a separate row over Japanese-controlled islets in the East China Sea.
U.S. and Philippine troops will take part in annual military exercises this month near the Spratlys in the largest such drills since the allies resumed joint activities in 2000..
Asked whether the beefed up U.S.-Philippine exercises were a response to China’s moves, Carter said Washington and Manila had shared interests in the region, including a desire to ensure there were no changes in the status quo by force or that territorial rows were militarized.