Mike Pompeo is speaking during an online meeting with ASEAN foreign ministers on Thursday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Southeast Asian nations on Thursday to go beyond words and act against China’s “bullying” in the disputed South China Sea, promising America will back them up.
Pompeo spoke with counterparts from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in an annual conference by video due to the coronavirus pandemic. Four of the members - the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei - have been locked in the long-raging territorial conflict with China, along with Taiwan, over the busy waterway, which Beijing claims almost in its entirety.
Although the US lays no claim to the South China Sea, the Trump administration has recently imposed sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for Beijing’s military buildup in the area. It includes airfields and radar and missile stations on islands constructed atop coral reefs, raising fears China may interfere with freedom of navigation in international waters.
Pompeo says US not asking ASEAN allies to choose on China
Southeast Asian leaders meet under US-China trade war cloud
ASEAN leaders urge economic strength in face of US-China row
“I think keep going, don’t just speak up but act,” Pompeo told top diplomats from the 10-nation bloc, without elaborating. A State Department spokeswoman said he pressed for a peaceful resolution of the disputes.
“Don’t let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people. You should have confidence and the American will be here in friendship to help you,” he said.
China does not respect democratic values and principles of sovereignty, quality and territorial integrity enshrined in the ASEAN charter, Pompeo said. He cited the US blacklisting of Chinese companies for their roles in constructing islands in the disputed waters that infringe on other states’ claims.
The US has deployed warships and fighter jets for what it calls freedom of navigation and overflight patrols.
There was no immediate comment from China or its foreign minister, Wang Yi, who was participating in the ASEAN meetings and separately met the group’s ministers Wednesday. China has insisted it has right to safeguard its national interests and accuses Washington of interfering in regional affairs.
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, whose country is hosting ASEAN meetings this year, warmed up to Pompeo’s remarks, saying “the ASEAN-US relationship has brought about mutual benefit to both sides.”
“The US role and contribution to maintaining peace, stability and security in the region are encouraged,” he said.
ASEAN, founded in 1967, has struggled to stay away from the escalating rivalry between Washington and Beijing. It has often asserted its “centrality” and regional leadership although some critics dismiss the group as a talk shop that is often vulnerable to the sway of world powers.
Depending on how ASEAN deals with issues, “they can either result in disaster or a new dawn of peace and stability for our region,” Malaysian Foreign Minister Hishammuddin Hussein told colleagues on Tuesday.
“The challenge here is leadership - do we lead or do we follow?” he asked. “Make no mistake - Southeast Asia intends to remain the master of its own destiny.”
The rivalry between the two superpowers is framed by a trade war that has cramped global growth and seeded uncertainty across Asia's economies.
Esper's comments come at a time when some US officials have blamed China for the coronavirus outbreak. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday Washington had evidence the disease emerged from a Chinese lab, which Beijing strongly denies.
Foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian, in tweets last week in both Mandarin and English, suggested that "patient zero" in the global pandemic may have come from the United States — not the Chinese metropolis of Wuhan.
Imports of US goods fell 22.5% from a year earlier to $10.3 billion following Chinese tariff hikes and orders to companies to cancel orders, customs data showed Sunday. Exports to the United States, China's biggest market, sank 16% to $44.4 billion.
Imran Khan was prime minister from 2018 until 2022, when he was ousted from office in a parliamentary vote. Since then, he has been demanding a new election and holding protests across the country to press his case.
The UAE also condemned his use of a map of Israel that includes lands from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories.
The Shariah courts across the country will monitor and notify the committee of any sightings, while the Lunar Calendar Committee at the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department will continue to gather evidence and report its findings to the Moon-Sighting Committee.
The move comes as part of President Mohamed's humanitarian initiatives and is reflective of the values of forgiveness and tolerance to give pardoned inmates an opportunity to start a new life and ease the suffering of their families.