During the Air & Space Conference and Technology Exposition held by the Air Force Association in National Harbor, Maryland on Sep. 16, the US secretary of defense, Ashton Carter, said Washington was already moving ahead to prepare for a potential conflict with China in the disputed South China Sea region, Russia’s Tass news agency reports. Carter noted that China is turning submerged reefs into airfields and military bases through land reclamation to bolster its sovereignty claims in the region, where territory is claimed by several different parties. At the same time, he also said that it is time for the US to demand China slow down its militarization of the Spratly islands while promoting new diplomacy to protects the rights and interests of all countries in the region.

Carter went on to say that the US Air Force was going to transfer “high-end assets” to the region as a means to counter Chinese expansion. It is a part of the Obama administration’s “Asia pivot” strategy, he said. “After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit,” he said. FULL REPORT