No place for 'empire and aggression' in Indo-Pacific region: US V-P
SINGAPORE United States Vice-President Mike Pence told leaders of South-east Asian nations yesterday that there is no place for "empire and aggression" in the Indo-Pacific region, a comment that may be widely interpreted as a reference to China's rise.
Mr Pence did not mention China in his remarks at the opening of an Asean summit, but he stressed that small countries as well as large ones should be allowed to prosper in the Indo-Pacific.
"Like you, we seek an Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, can prosper and thrive - secure in our sovereignty, confident in our values and growing stronger together," he said.
"We all agree that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific."
Mr Pence said Washington had taken action to promote this vision, including steps to spur private investment in infrastructure and a pursuit of trade that is "free, fair and reciprocal".
He also highlighted the US' "pressure campaign" on North Korea, its "commitment to uphold the freedom of the seas and skies" and determination to ensure that South-east Asian nations are secure in their sovereign borders.
Mr Pence's comments follow a major speech last month in which he flagged a tougher approach by Washington towards Beijing, accusing China of "malign" efforts to undermine US President Donald Trump and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.
The US has conducted a series of freedom of navigation exercises in the contested South China Sea, angering Beijing, which says the moves threaten its sovereignty.
China's claims in the South China Sea, through which some US$3 trillion (S$4.1 trillion) of shipborne trade passes each year, are contested by five other nations.- REUTERS