Carter, who was in Malaysia for two days of talks with Asian defence 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 signalled 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 yesterday, 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 Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein accompanied Carter to the carrier, highlighting US efforts to strengthen defence 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.
The Pentagon also is interested in making arrangements with Malaysia for more regular access to the naval base at Sabah for US aircraft carriers.
It is not unusual for a defence secretary to visit an aircraft carrier. But Carter's visit drew extra attention because of the ship's location and the tensions surrounding China's reclamation work, which Adm Harry Harris, head of US forces in the Pacific, has likened to building a "great wall of sand" with the potential for confrontations to escalate into armed conflict.
Carter and Hishammuddin were expected to observe the carrier's fighter jet operations and be briefed by Navy officers on their current and recent manoeuvres.


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