Pompeo tells Southeast Asian countries to stand up to China, shun its firms1 min read . Updated: 10 Sep 2020, 05:15 PM IST
'Reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned enterprises that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea. Don't let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people,' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said
The United States' top diplomat on Thursday urged Southeast Asian countries to stand up to maritime bullying by China and to reassess business deals with its state firms, adding to heated exchanges between two powers jostling for influence.
Speaking remotely to foreign ministers of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the region should be confident in the United States and know it can bank on its support.
"Today, I say keep going. Don't just speak up but act," Pompeo said. "Reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned enterprises that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea. Don't let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people."
ASEAN has said it does not want to take sides amid friction over a recent spike in military activities by both powers in the South China Sea and ahead of a November election in which US President Donald Trump will trumpet his tough stand against China.
Asked about China-US tensions on Tuesday in an interview with Reuters, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said: "We don't want to get trapped by this rivalry."
China's State Councillor Wang Yi on Wednesday told the ASEAN ministers that the United States was interfering in the South China Sea and was driving its militarisation.
China says it has historical sovereignty over most of the waterway, but its neighbours and the United States say that claim has no basis in international law.
Pompeo's swipe at Chinese firms follows Washington's recent announcement of sanctions on 24 Chinese entities involved in building artificial islands in disputed waters and installing missile systems on them.
US ally the Philippines is among countries where blacklisted firms have secured lucrative contracts, but its president says those will go ahead.
ASEAN ministers held remote meetings on Thursday with Japan and also Australia.
Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was committed to a peaceful Indo-Pacific "free from coercion and with sovereignty, international law and the rights of all states respected and upheld."
Vietnam Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh in a statement welcomed the US role in supporting ASEAN's hope for peace, stability, security and freedom of navigation.