Obama: Beijing should not 'elbow' its way in South China Sea

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US President Barack Obama said that the United States will continue to support other claimant countries to "enforce norms and rules" in the South China Sea.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Two days after the United States defense chief made strong pronouncements against territorial expansion in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), it was now the US president's turn to make his unequivocal stand on the matter.

Speaking at the White House before a group of young leaders from southeast Asian countries,President Barack Obama said on Monday (June 1) that China was practically bullying its way in disputed waters.

"China is going to be successful. It's big, it's powerful, its people are talented and they work hard. And it may be some of their claims are legitimate," Obama said. "But they shouldn't just try to establish that based on throwing elbows and pushing people out of the way."

After this, Obama made his position very clear: Washington will not just stand idly by.

He said that as an Asia-Pacific power, the United States will continue to stand behind other claimant countries to "enforce norms and rules" aimed towards "growth and prosperity in the region."

In this regard, Obama went into specifics and described China's land reclamation in disputed territories as "aggressive actions" that are "counter-productive."

Before this, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called on Beijing to stop reclamation projects amid fresh tensions in the region.

Carter said the US was "deeply concerned" about China's brisk activities of land formation as well "the potential for these activities to increase the risk of miscalculation or conflict among claimant states."

He made the statement after a U.S. surveillance plane flew over artificial islands in contested waters, triggering eight warnings from the Chinese navy.

China, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines have varying claims in the controversial territory.

For its part, Beijing has defended its acts, saying the land reclamation was "justified, legitimate, and reasonable."

Admiral Sun Jianguo, deputy chief of General Staff Department of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), said that the construction and island creation did not target any other countries or affect the freedom of navigation in the region.

CNN and Reuters contributed to this report.