Pompeo has urged ASEAN to dig up Chinese firms in the South China Sea. news

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has urged top diplomats in South-East Asia to join Chinese companies helping build islands in the South China Sea weeks after blacklisting two dozen firms operating in disputed waters Cut ties.

Pompeo told 10 foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) during an online summit on Thursday, “Just speak, but don’t act.”

The top US diplomat said regional governments should “rethink trade with very state-owned companies that threaten ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea”.

He said: “Don’t let the Chinese Communist Party run on us and our people.”

This year’s summit emphasizes several issues on the United States-China rivalry – from trade to coronovirus epidemics.

Tensions are also rising over the South China Sea, with the US approving 24 Chinese state-owned companies last month, saying it has helped Beijing’s military build in resource-rich waterways.

Last week, Beijing launched ballistic missiles as part of a live-fire exercise in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi blamed the US for tensions, claiming that Washington was becoming the “biggest driver” of militarization.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heideler, who has often covered the annual ASEAN summit, said that while this year saw 10 countries in the bloc work together to help revive their coronovirus-hit economies. , China and the US continued their rhetoric. Posting in the field “.

“Both [China and the US] Military assets are increasing in areas of disputed areas, “he said, adding tensions also included” diplomatic action, sanctions and threats “.

China claims its vast majority of the South China Sea, invoking its so-called nine-dash line to justify what it says are historic rights for important trade waterways.

In 2016, however, an international tribunal in The Hague rejected China’s claim, stating that it was unlawful under the law of the 1982 United Nations Convention.

But since the ruling, Beijing has increased the construction of several artificial islands capable of accommodating naval ships and aircraft.

Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan all choose parts of China’s declared territory at sea.

A Chinese firm, which is being blacklisted by a US communications manufacturing company, is involved with the expansion of the Philippine Airport in Sangli, a former US Navy facility outside Manila. [File: Francis R Malasig/EPA]

Vietnam, which is presiding over the virtual ASEAN gathering, expressed “grave concern” about the recent military buildup of the sea.

Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said, “This has led to erosion of trust and confidence, increased tension and peace, security and rule of law have been established in the region.”

Meanwhile, the Philippines had already said it would not follow US leadership last week because it needed Chinese investment, even as a fresh dispute between Manila and Beijing over the Scarborough Shoal – the region’s In the richest fishing grounds – talks hang on.

A Chinese firm, blacklisted by the US communications manufacturing company, is involved with the expansion of the Philippine airport at Sangli, a former US naval facility outside the capital Manila.

Al Jazeera and news agencies