Pompeo urges ASEAN to ditch Chinese firms in South China Sea row

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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged top diplomats from Southeast Asia to cut ties with Chinese companies helping build islands in the South China Sea, weeks after Washington blacklisted two dozen firms working in the disputed waters.

“Today, I say keep going. Don’t just speak up, but act,” Pompeo said when he joined the annual ASEAN-United States Foreign Ministers’ Meeting with his counterparts from the 10 ASEAN member states via videoconference on September 9.

Pompeo said regional governments should “reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned companies that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea”.

“Don’t let the Chinese Communist party walk over us and our people.” He added.

The Secretary reiterated U.S. support for the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific and its role in guiding U.S. engagement with ASEAN.  He further emphasized ASEAN’s important role at the center of the U.S. vision for the Indo-Pacific.

Secretary Pompeo and his counterparts discussed pressing international and regional issues, urging the PRC to halt its aggressive and destabilizing policies, including in the South China Sea, the Mekong sub-region, and Hong Kong.

Several ASEAN countries have also raised concerns over the PRC’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea.  Pompeo reiterated that the United States, in line with the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal Award, regards Beijing’s expansive maritime claims in the South China Sea as unlawful.

This year of 2020 celebrates the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-ASEAN Strategic Partnership.

Secretary Pompeo highlighted U.S. support for principles of openness, inclusiveness, transparency, and respect for international law. He underscored the U.S. commitment—both government and private sector—to partnering with ASEAN countries in economic recovery efforts.

According to the State Department, through programs like the Health Futures initiative and the Billion Futures Initiative, the United States is investing in ASEAN countries to unleash the full potential of the combined one billion people in civil society, government, academia, and the private sector, in line with the connectivity pillar of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

“The U.S. government works alongside the private sector to improve the lives and well-being of people across the Indo-Pacific. Programs focused on people-to-people exchange, science and technology, entrepreneurship, education, technical training, and more are rooted in trust and personal relationships,” a State Department Fack Sheet revealed.

The Indo-Pacific accounts for more than half the world’s population and 58 percent of the world’s youth.

Secretary Pompeo praised ASEAN Chair Vietnam for its work convening ASEAN Foreign Ministers during these unprecedented times.

By Winnie Troppie

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