U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter has warned China of alienating regional neighbours and building a 'great wall of self-isolation' as it pursues its military expansion across the South China Sea.
"China's actions in the South China Sea are isolating it, at a time when the entire region is coming together and networking," the Guardian quoted Carter as saying said in a speech at an annual forum known as the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.
He pressed that countries across the Asia-Pacific region continue to fret over Beijing's sweeping claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea, and its attempts to bolster these by creating military bases on reclaimed islets and increasing maritime patrols.
"Unfortunately, if these actions continue, China could end up erecting a great wall of self-isolation," he added.
While Beijing claims nearly the entire South China Sea has angered Southeast Asian neighbours, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam have competing claims in the area which is believed to have significant oil and gas deposits.
The Philippines has already filed a case against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague.
A decision is expected in the coming weeks but Beijing has reportedly said that it will not recognise any ruling.
"The United States views the upcoming ruling ... as an opportunity for China and the rest of the region to recommit to a principled future, to renewed diplomacy, and to lowering tensions, rather than raising them," Carter said.
The defence secretary also suggested the U.S. and China would benefit from better military ties by building understanding and avoiding the risk of mishaps.
"America wants to expand military-to-military agreements with China to focus not only on risk reduction, but also on practical cooperation," Carter said.