Carter says U.S. will sail, fly and operate wherever international law allows

U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter talks next his Italian counterpart Roberta Pinotti (not seen) during a news conference in Rome, Italy, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

BOSTON (Reuters) - In a clear rebuff to China, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Tuesday that the United States military would sail and fly wherever international law allowed, including the South China Sea.

“Make no mistake, the United States will fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows, as we do around the world, and the South China Sea will not be an exception,” Carter told a news conference after ministerial talks with U.S. ally Australia in Boston.

China claims most of the South China Sea and last week warned it would not stand for any violations of its territorial waters after the United States said it was considering patrols within 12 nautical miles of artificial islands Beijing has built in the sea’s Spratly archipelago.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Sandra Maler