The Weekend Leader - Amid SCS tensions, Pompeo, Jaishankar back freedom of navigation

Amid SCS tensions, Pompeo, Jaishankar back freedom of navigation

Bangkok/New Delhi


Hours after hitting out at Chinese "coercion" in the South China Sea, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday discussed their shared commitment to upholding rule of law, freedom of navigation and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific region.

"Secretary Michael R. Pompeo met in Bangkok, Thailand, with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on August 2. The two discussed our shared commitment to upholding the rule of law, freedom of navigation, and democratic values in the Indo-Pacific region. The Secretary reaffirmed the positive trajectory of the US-India strategic partnership," said spokesperson Morgan Ortagus of the meeting.

The talks on upholding the rule of law, and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region comes amid a stand-off between China and Vietnam over territorial rights in the South China Sea.

China and Vietnam have been locked in a dispute at Vanguard Bank in the South China Sea ever since a Chinese ship escorted by a flotilla of heavily armed coastguard vessels entered the Vietnamese-controlled reef area last month.

Vietnam has raised the issue with India and the Vietnamese Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who is also the Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister, on Thursday denounced illegal activities by the Chinese oil survey vessel in Vietnamese waters at an ASEAN meeting here.

"The situation in the East Sea is complicated, with unilateral actions including militarization, increasing military exercises, especially the activities of Chinese oil survey ship Haiyang Dizhi 8 and its escorts, which are infringing upon the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf of Vietnam with illegal survey activities," Minh said at the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.

In a tweet on Friday Pompeo said: "Had frank and productive discussions with my East Asia Summit counterparts about the most pressing issues facing us as we seek a free and open #IndoPacific, including the denuclearization of North Korea and ongoing tensions in the South China Sea."

In his speech, Pompeo referred to Chinese "coercion" of neighbours in the South China Sea and said Beijing's upstream dam-building on the Mekong River was harming countries in Southeast Asia that depend on the waterway.

He also accused China of "decades of bad behavior" that have hampered free trade, after US President Donald Trump on Thursday announced he would slap a 10% tariff on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese imports starting September 1. IANS 

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