Carter called for an “an immediate and lasting halt to land reclamation by all claimants” at a security summit in Singapore on Saturday. The United States previously accused China of “manufacturing sovereignty” by reclaiming and consolidating islands in the disputed region.
“We have some activities to enhance and consolidate the islands that are under our sovereignty. We do not expand the islands, we just consolidate to prevent erosion because of waves,” Vietnam’s Defense Minister Phung Quang Thanh said after talks on Monday.
Vietnam also has soldiers stationed on 21 islands and reefs in the disputed region, according to Thanh. A US military source told Reuters that Carter did not receive an explanation over what Vietnam considers maintenance versus new expansion.