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Defense Secretary Ash Carter tours the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico during a visit to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., May 24, 2016. DoD photo by Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz

Defense Secretary Ash Carter tours the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico during a visit to Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Conn., May 24, 2016.(Image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense/Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Adrian Cadiz)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said yesterday that the U.S. rebalance to the Asia-Pacific is a “whole program of enhanced activities” intended to maintain peace and security in the region.

“The rebalance is a lot more than freedom-of-navigation operations,” Carter said during a media availability at Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut, as part of a short trip to several locations in New England.

The efforts encompass political, economic and military efforts, including modernization of forces, he explained.

“It is the enormous pattern of bilateral and multilateral exercising we do [and the] partnerships with militaries in the region who are very eager to work increasingly with the United States,” Carter said.

Freedom of Navigation

The United States supports freedom of navigation around the world, not just in the South China Sea, he said, noting that the department’s concern is “not just about any one country, including China.”

Claims in the South China Sea need to be “settled in a peaceful way, not by militarizing them, not coercion, but settlement in a peaceful [way],” he said. That is a principle the United States stands for all over the world, Carter added. Peaceful resolution of territorial disputes is important around the globe, from “the South China Sea to the Arctic,” the defense secretary said.

The defense secretary said the United States and other countries have been standing up for freedom of navigation for hundreds of years. The United States will continue to enforce that freedom all around the world, he added.

In previous speeches, Carter has said the United States will fly, sail and operate anywhere that international law allows. He has previously expressed concern about a China that is “behaving aggressively,” listing it among the top five global security challenges facing the United States.

During his visit yesterday to the naval base, Carter visited with troops and toured the Virginia-class submarine USS New Mexico.

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