The war of word between China and the Untied States continued to escalate on Thursday as U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter delivered the strongest warning yet against China's belligerent actions in the South China Sea.
Secretary Carter demanded a halt to land reclamation projects in international waters and vowed that the U.S. will remain Asia's leading power "for decades to come".
The Pentagon chief warned that China's actions are only "increasing demand for American engagement in the Asia-Pacific.", especially by neighbors such as Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines and Taiwan.
"We're going to meet [that demand]. We will remain the principal security power in the Asia-Pacific for decades to come.
There should be no mistake about this: The United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do all around the world," Mr Carter said.
The strongly worded remarks come before this weekend's Shangri-La Dialogue, a regional security conference in Singapore.
While China's Foreign Ministry blasted the comment's and various recent actions, including overflights of China's illegal land reclamation project, as "very irresponsible and also dangerous" the Secretary's comments illustrate that both the United States and regional peers are losing patience with China, who appears stuck in a cold-war style mindset despite times having changed.
Carter's comments come after Beijing released a military strategy white paper on Tuesday that vaguely warned about "meddling" by other nations in the South China Sea.
They also followed a Chinese state-owned newspaper, the de-facto mouthpiece for the communist government, which said that "war was inevitable" between the two countries unless Washington stopped demanding Beijing cease construction in the disputed waterway.
The defense secretary made clear that the U.S. will not back down in the face of such threats. Yet the Secretary is not war minded and instead acting in the interests of China;s neighbors, the international community and the United States.
"We want a peaceful resolution of all disputes, and an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by any claimant," he said in a speech to military personel stationed in Pearl Harbor. "We also oppose any further militarisation of disputed features."