In a symbolic swipe at China's muscular moves in the South China Sea, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter is flying onto a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier in the disputed waterway.

Carter, who was in Malaysia to attend two days of talks with Asian defense ministers, is using the visit to the USS Theodore Roosevelt to amplify the U.S. view that China is making excessive territorial claims in the South China Sea. He also was signaling that the U.S. will keep a strong naval presence in the region.

Carter's Malaysian counterpart planned to accompany him to the carrier, highlighting U.S. efforts to strengthen defense partnerships in the Asia-Pacific. Malaysia is among several countries that claim a portion of the South China Sea and disagree with China's building of artificial islands.