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U.S.: China's militarization of South China Sea will have consequences

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday warned China against what he called "aggressive" actions in the South China Sea region, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, and said they ...

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A satellite image released by the Asian Maritime Transparency Initiative at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies shows construction of possible radar tower facilities in the Spratly Islands in the disputed South China Sea in this image released on February 23, 2016. REUTERS/CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative/DigitalGlobe/Handout via Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Tuesday warned China against what he called "aggressive" actions in the South China Sea region, including the placement of surface-to-air missiles on a disputed island, and said they would have consequences.

"China must not pursue militarization in the South China Sea," Carter said in a wide-ranging speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. "Specific actions will have specific consequences." He did not elaborate.

The U.S. defense chief took aim at both Russia and China for their actions to limit Internet access, as well as state-sponsored cyber threats, cyber espionage and cyber crime.

In his prepared remarks, Carter drew a contrast between such behavior by Russia and China and what he described as much healthier U.S. actions to preserve Internet freedom.

He also urged cooperation with the U.S. technology companies to work together to ensure data security and necessary encryption levels, despite growing controversy over the FBI's request to circumvent security features on an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino, California, shooters.

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Carter said he could not address the case specifically since it was under litigation, but made clear that the Defense Department viewed encryption as a necessary part of data security.

"It's important to take a step back here, because future policy shouldn't be driven by any one particular case," Carter said in what appeared to be a departure from the Justice Department's view.

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