U.S. Sen. John McCain says America needs to provide Vietnam with more defensive weapons, as tensions in the Asia Pacific region heighten over China's expanding land reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

McCain says he wants to see a gradual removal of the U.S. ban on providing lethal arms to Vietnam. The Republican senator from Arizona says the U.S. should provide additional defensive weapons that could be used in case of a conflict with China. The U.S. currently only allows the sale of lethal maritime security capabilities and for surveillance on a case-by-case basis.

McCain says the U.S. should continue its ban on weapons used for crowd control or to commit human rights abuses.

He was speaking during the International Institute for Strategic Studies summit after recently visiting Vietnam.