Washington: Vice-President Mike Pence chided China at an Asian summit, saying the US offers countries in the region “a better option’’ for economic and diplomatic relations than Beijing’s heavy-handed approach.
“Do not accept foreign debt that could compromise your sovereignty,’’ Pence said Saturday during a speech to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO summit in Papua New Guinea, according to prepared remarks.
“We don’t drown our partners in a sea of debt," he said. “We don’t coerce, corrupt, or compromise your independence. The US deals openly and fairly – and we don’t offer a constricting belt or a one-way road."
The implicit reference to Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative came as Pence neared the end of his week-long swing through Asia, with his aides characterizing Saturday’s speech as the capstone of his trip. Pence is representing Donald Trump at the summits, after the president opted not to attend — becoming the first US head of state to skip the marquee Asian conferences since 2013.
Addressing APEC shortly after Xi spoke, Pence criticized China for “opaque’’ and debt-ridden infrastructure loans, forced technology transfers and intellectual property theft and militarization of the South China Sea.
Pence said the US will partner with Papua New Guinea and Australia on a joint maritime initiative at Lombrum Naval Base on Manus Island.
“We will continue to fly and sail wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,’’ he said. “Harassment will only strengthen our resolve.’’
Xi Jinping earlier took several jabs at Trump’s approach to foreign policy and trade. The Chinese leader said that globalization with a rules-based international order would protect global growth, while isolation and protectionism would cause more problems. He warned against confrontation in the form of a trade war or Cold War.
Xi defended the Belt and Road Initiative, saying it “is not a trap as some people have labelled it.’’
Xi and Trump are set to meet in two weeks during the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires, a face-to-face laden with high stakes as the US and China try to settle the escalating trade war.
Pence sought to reassure countries he said are concerned that the dispute “will hurt the region economically.’’ He said the US was working to improve relations with Beijing, and pointed to Trump’s upcoming meeting with Xi as an opportunity for progress.
“We believe that progress could be made between our two nations, even as the United States remains in a strong position," Pence said.
During his speech, Pence also announced a few new initiatives aimed at showing U.S. commitment to the region.
He announced the Indo-Pacific Transparency Initiative, a good government programme that he said would be backed by $400 in US funding. He also highlighted Exxon Mobil’s investment in Papua New Guinea and said he would make an announcement on Sunday about a “historic initiative that will transform Papua New Guinea’s future.’’
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.