Don’t let China ‘walk over us’, Pompeo tells ASEAN

The U.S. Secretary of State speaks with his counterparts by a video conference

Updated - September 10, 2020 11:28 am IST

Published - September 10, 2020 11:27 am IST - Hanoi (Vietnam)

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. File photo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. File photo

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Southeast Asian nations Thursday to go beyond words and act against China’s bullying in the disputed South China Sea , promising America will back them up.

Also read: LAC standoff | Massive Chinese build-up on north bank of Pangong Tso lake

Mr. Pompeo spoke with his 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 U.S. 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.

“I think keep going, don’t just speak up but act, Mr. 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," Mr. Pompeo said. He cited the U.S. blacklisting of Chinese companies for their roles in constructing islands in the disputed waters that infringe on other states’ claims.

The U.S. 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 Mr. Pompeo’s remarks, saying the ASEAN-U.S. relationship has brought about mutual benefit to both sides. The U.S. 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.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.