The United States Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called China on Wednesday for an immediate end to build artificial islands in the South China Sea and urged Beijing for a peaceful solution instead of militarising the region.
"We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant. We also oppose any further militarization of disputed features," the Pentagon chief told reporters in a military ceremony for change of command of the US Asia-Pacific navy.
Carter reiterated the US position towards the maritime dispute in the South China Sea and stated that Chinese attitudes were "out of step" with the regional consensus.
"With its actions in the South China Sea, China is out of step with both international norms that underscore the Asia-Pacific's security architecture, and the regional consensus in favor of non-coercive approaches to this and other long-standing disputes," Carter said at Pearl Harbor where Japan had attacked the US navy during the Second World War.
Carter’s remarks on the maritime disputes with China came a week after the US decision to send a littoral combat ship and P8-A Poseidon surveillance aircraft that started prying over the international waters near the China’s artificial islands through which China has been reclaiming its continental shelf in the region.
The US administration announced last week that it will continue to patrol waters and skies of the long-disputed South China Sea on which the Chinese navy has repeatedly warned US surveillance plane to leave the airspace over the islands.
China increased its efforts to redefine its territorial waters last year when Beijing commenced to build seven artificial islands near by the Spratly islands where the littoral states in the South China Sea severely objected Chinese maritime expansion.
China has long been confronting with its maritime neighbours Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei in the South China Sea territorial waters.
The parties’ overlapping claims on maritime transportation, navigation, exclusive economic zones, fishing grounds, undersea bed gas and oil reserves have already deteriorated the problem as China started to build the artificial islands last year.
"China’s actions are bringing countries in the region together in new ways," Carter said.
"They're increasing demand for American engagement in the Asia-Pacific. We’re going to meet it. We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come," he added.
The US moves to patrol the South China Sea airspace synchronically with territorial waters came as Beijing was preparing to declare an Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) in the area.
The US officials and experts see that the Chinese act to declare ADIZ is likely to happen soon above the South China Sea through which China will also be able to control aerial security.
The Pentagon believes that China has added some 2,000 acres (800 hectares) to five outposts in the Spratlys, including 1,500 acres since the start of this year.
The US officials claim that Chinese military complexes are now under construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the Spratly island including a 3,000-metre runway and that airborne early warning radars will be operational by the year end.
Chinese side is also very concerned with the US presence in the South China Sea as the Chinese Foreign Ministry officials emphasised last week Beijing’s “legitimate” rights of existence to which they believe the US should respect in the region.
"China has the right to engage in monitoring in the relevant airspace and waters to protect the country's sovereignty and prevent accidents at sea," ministry spokesman Hong Lei said in a regular briefing on last week.
"We hope the relevant country can earnestly respect China's sovereignty in the South China Sea," Lei said.
The Global Times, a tabloid branch of the People’s Daily newspaper which is the mouthpiece of the ruling Chinese Communist Party, also said on Monday that a war would erupt between China and the US if Washington continues to interfere with China’s actions concerning the Spratly archipelago.
The US Secretary of State John Kerry visited China two weeks ago and told Beijing leadership to decrease tension in the South China Sea.
Kerry took a tough stance in Beijing on behalf of the US during a press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and expressed the discontent voiced up by Washington’s allies in the region like Japan and the Philippines on the issue.
The Defense Secretary Carter is scheduled to visit Singapore, Vietnam and India in the days to come in order to boost security cooperation as well as discussing the maritime disputes in the South China Sea.