Pompeo urges Southeast Asia to build ties with ‘bully’ China firms

Photographer: Katherine Lie / AFP via Getty Image

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo called on Southeast Asian countries to review relations with Chinese state-owned enterprises, increasing pressure on Beijing over territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

“Just speak, but don’t act,” Pompeo said Thursday during a virtual summit with the Foreign Ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “Rethinking trade with very state-owned companies threatening the ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea. Do not let the Chinese Communist Party run on us and our people. ”

Tensions in the South China Sea have increased over the past few months as the US and China have done everything from Hong Kong to democracy to data security on popular Chinese apps Tickcock and WeChat. In July, the US categorically rejected China’s extensive maritime claims in the region for the first time, and sent aircraft carriers into the water to conduct military exercises.

China fired missiles into the South China Sea last month, underscoring the rising cost of any armed conflict in the region. The missiles showed China the ability to attack American targets and aircraft carriers, which are the major sources of US power launch in the region.

Pompeo’s comment came after US last month Declared trade and visa restrictions on 24 companies for their efforts to help China “reclaim disputed outposts and militarize the declared maritime zone” – a key builder of Belt & Road, state-owned China Communications Construction Co. “Initiative Projects.