(From Reuters)

The chief U.S. defense official visited an American aircraft carrier transiting the disputed South China Sea on Friday, as China said one of its top military officers had visited islands and reefs in the region to oversee building work.

U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter walks past honour guards at Camp Aguinaldo to attend the closing ceremony of a U.S.-Philippine military exercise

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter flew to the nuclear-powered USS John C. Stennis for a two-hour visit as it sailed 60 to 70 miles west of the Philippines island of Luzon.

While there, he dismissed China’s characterization of a more robust U.S. military presence in the region as being the cause of heightened tensions.

“What’s new is not an American carrier in this region,” Carter said aboard the Stennis, where he met U.S. troops and observed flight operations. “What’s new is the context of tension which exists which we want to reduce.”

China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year. Read More

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