HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Southeast Asian nations Thursday to reconsider deals with Chinese companies blacklisted by Washington for building island outposts he says Beijing is using to “bully” rival claimants in the disputed South China Sea.
Pompeo spoke with 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,” 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.
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