Gates spoke at an Asian regional security conference in Singapore of concern expressed by several countries about "the security implications of rising demand for resources" and "coercive diplomacy" created by China's hunger for sources of energy and raw materials in resource-rich territorial waters, The New York Times reported Saturday.
Gates' speech recalled disagreements in the mid-1990s between China and its neighbors such as Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia over boundary and resource claims in the South China Sea, the report said.
Gates added in the speech that there would be rewards for playing by an international set of rules in a transparent way. "We should not forget that globalization has permitted our shared rise in wealth over recent decades," he said. "This achievement rests above all on openness: openness of trade, openness of ideas, and openness of what I would call the 'common areas,' whether in the maritime, space or cyber domains."