The United States Defence Secretary Ash Carter said on Saturday that the US will maintain its freedom of navigation policy in the problematic South China Sea.
He said in a speech that "We've done them before, all over the world. And we will do them again." However, he did not share any details on when exactly the operation would be launched.
He also accused China of increasing the tension in the region by building man-made islands.
China and Russia aim to break the international order, but the US military will focus on its plans and operations, he stated.
"How China behaves will be the true test of its commitment to peace and security," Carter said.
"This is why nations across the region are watching China's actions in areas like the maritime domain and cyberspace."
On this controversial issue, China alleges territorial claim to a majority of the South China Sea, where at least $5 trillion in global trade passes thru each year. Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan have also declared a claim.
Carter underlined that "The United States joins virtually everyone else in the region in being deeply concerned about the pace and scope of land reclamation in the South China Sea."
Carter added that he was worried about the prospect of further militarisation and “the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states."
He also made a quip to both China and Russia, by inviting them to be a piece of a broader international security structure. "We do not seek a cold, let alone a hot war with Russia. We do not seek to make Russia an enemy," he stated
Reactions in the past
The US launched a naval mission last Tuesday, deploying the guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen near the two artificial islands built by China, on the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
The move on last Tuesday prompted reaction in China, as Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui called it “extremely irresponsible.” Cui Tiankai, the Chinese ambassador to the US also described the operation as “a very serious provocation, politically and militarily.”
Chinese Defence Minister Chang Wanquan warned US on its activities in the problematic South China Sea and underlined that the US should give up on their attempts.
The defence minister also said that China considered the US naval patrol in the South China Sea, as a threat against China's sovereignty and security interests last week.
However, Bill Urban, a US Defense Department spokesperson said that “the United States is conducting routine operations in the South China Sea in accordance with international law.”
“US forces operate in the Asia-Pacific region on a daily basis, including in the South China Sea. All operations are conducted in accordance with international law.”
China started its reclamation campaign in the South China Sea by adding almost 3,000 acres of artificial land and mere rocks, barely above the water and claimed the islands are being built for civilian purposes.
After satellite photographs showing the construction of three military length airstrips that might be used for military purposes emerged, the US, Japan and Philippines stated that they are concerned by China’s expansion.