"I've been to India, Vietnam recently. We want to have good relations with them and we are not asking people to take sides," Carter said in a panel discussion in Davos on World Economic Forum meeting yesterday.

"I think their position is basically right, which is we want everybody to keep being able to do what they are doing. We don't want to have to pick sides. America doesn't want to have sides either," said the Defense Secretary.

"We do know that people are coming to us increasingly. Why is that? It is because China is taking some steps that I think are self-isolating, driving people towards a result that none of us wants," he said, in reference to Chinese measures in the South China Sea.

At the same time, he argued, the US does not want to ruin a good thing, which is a system of peace and stability there. He said the US is helping other countries that are all coming to US for assistance in maritime security.

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