U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter says that during his visit to Vietnam, he'll urge officials to give up their reclamation projects in the South China Sea.

Carter has called for all countries in the Asia-Pacific region to halt the construction of artificial islands. Tensions are rising over China's rapidly expanding building projects, and Beijing's aggressive stand worries the U.S. and its regional partners.

Carter spoke to reporters during a stop at a Vietnamese Navy base on Sunday.

China is vigorously defending the projects in the face of persistent criticism from U.S. leaders.

The Pentagon chief also toured a Coast Guard ship, and on Monday, he'll meet with Vietnamese leaders. Other topics expected to come up are maritime weapons sales.