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Ignoring China, US defence chief visits aircraft carrier in South China Sea

In a symbolic swipe at China’s muscular moves in the South China Sea, US defense secretary Ash Carter visited an American aircraft carrier in the disputed waterway.

Carter, who was in Malaysia for two days of talks with Asian defense ministers, used the visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt to amplify the US view that China is making excessive claims that nearly all of the South China Sea as its territory.

Carter also signaled that the US will keep a strong naval presence in the region in support of nations seeking to preserve stability. He flew aboard the carrier in a V-22 Osprey from a base in the east Malaysian state of Sabah, which is situated on the northern portion of Borneo.

In announcing his visit Wednesday, Carter called it a “symbol of our commitment” to focusing more on US interests in the Asia-Pacific following more than a decade of wars in the Middle East.

Malaysian defense minister Hishammuddin Hussein accompanied Carter to the carrier, highlighting US efforts to strengthen defense partnerships in the Asia-Pacific. Malaysia is among several countries that claim a portion of the South China Sea and disagree with China’s building of artificial islands.

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