U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter will visit a U.S. aircraft carrier transiting the disputed South China Sea on Friday, a move bound to anger China, which has been increasingly asserting its territorial claims.
Carter made a similar visit to another aircraft carrier in November as it was crossing the South China Sea.
Carter spoke at the closing ceremony of joint U.S.-Philippines military exercises in Manila. Sailors and Marines from the USS John C. Stennis carrier, the vessel Carter will visit, participated in the exercises.
China claims almost the entire South China Sea, believed to have huge deposits of oil and gas. Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims to parts of the waters, through which about $5 trillion in trade is shipped every year.