SAN DIEGO—Defense Secretary Ash Carter said he is preparing the Pentagon to enter another phase of the U.S. “rebalance” to Asia by harnessing emerging capabilities such as undersea drones, longer-range munitions, new torpedoes and cyber advances to sharpen the U.S. edge in the region.
Mr. Carter didn’t announce any previously unknown technology initiatives, but highlighted newer resources the Pentagon can bring to bear in the region.
“In this next phase, the United States will continue to sharpen our military edge so we remain the most powerful military in the region and the security partner of choice,” he told a group of sailors and local officials aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, in port here.
“We’re going to have a few more surprises as well,” he said. “I can’t share all the details on these for obvious reasons, but what our friends and our potential adversaries should know is that these new capabilities will help us keep our decades-old commitment to undergirding security in the Asia-Pacific.”
Mr. Carter spoke as he heads to a meeting with 10 Asian counterparts in Hawaii and as the U.S. attempts to manage a precarious balance in the region. North Korea continues to test missiles and bombs that have begun to increase the threat it poses against U.S. interests and allies in the region, while China’s claims to islands in the South China Sea have grown more troubling.
On China, Mr. Carter spoke both of cooperation and competition in the region.
“In recent years, we’ve strengthened communications between our two militaries and reduced the risk of miscalculations that could lead to crises,” he said. But, he said: “The United States still has serious concerns with some of China’s recent actions on the seas, in cyberspace, and elsewhere. Beijing sometimes appears to want to pick and choose which principles it wants to benefit from and which it prefers to try to undercut.”
Chinese officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Carter highlighted U.S. efforts to assemble an alliance of countries to counter China’s growing influence, and addressed the Philippines, which elected a new president, Rodrigo Duterte, who has bad-mouthed Washington and said he will halt joint military patrols with the U.S. Despite Mr. Duterte’s rhetoric, Mr. Carter said military ties remain strong.
“As it has been for decades, our alliance with the Philippines is ironclad,” Mr. Carter said.
In his remarks aboard the carrier, Mr. Carter pointed to ways in which the Pentagon is making investments in the region, including tripling the Tomahawk cruise missile strike capacity of the Pentagon’s Virginia-class submarines being deployed to Asia, and increasing funding for a variety of sizes of undersea drones.
Mr. Carter also mentioned upgrades for the U.S. aerial tanker fleet — $16 billion over the next five years—and extending the range of the supersonic SM-6 missile so that it can strike enemy ships at longer range, he said.
“We’re also investing in other advanced munitions to improve range and accuracy for land attack and anti-ship missiles—including new torpedoes—as well as some very creative—and unexpected—ways to use such missiles across the varied domains of the Asia-Pacific,” Mr. Carter said.
Write to Gordon Lubold at Gordon.Lubold@wsj.com