Bsoton: In a rebuff to China, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday the United States military would sail and fly wherever international law allowed, including the disputed South China Sea.
Carter spoke after a two-day meeting between U.S. and Australian foreign and defence ministers at which the long-time allies agreed to expand defence cooperation and expressed "strong concerns" over Beijing's building on disputed islands.
"Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception," Carter told a joint news conference.
"We will do that in the time and places of our choosing," Carter added.
He had been asked about reports that the United States had already decided to conduct freedom-of-navigation operations inside 12 nautical mile limits that China claims around islands built on reefs in the Spratly archipelago.
In Beijing, when asked about Carter's remarks, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had not militarised the South China Sea.