HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam – United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded an Asian tour on Friday in Vietnam by reiterating his position against China in all the countries he visited, including India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.
In Hanoi, Pompeo met with his Vietnamese counterpart, Pham Binh Minh, to discuss an agreement that strengthens economic ties, while among other items on the agenda were disputes with China on the Mekong River and in the South China Sea.
This tour, just before Tuesday elections in the United States, demonstrates Washington’s interest in winning allies against China.
“A pleasure to meet with Vice Prime Minister and Foreign Minister @FMPhamBinhMinh today in Hanoi to discuss the US commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific,” the US Secretary wrote on Twitter.
Pompeo celebrated 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, which were staunch enemies for two decades after the Vietnam War but reconciled after the fall of the Soviet Union and the increase in the commercial and military power of Beijing.
Prior to the visit, US companies signed agreements related to information technology, the production of electricity from gas, and the sale of biofuel.
Pompeo has reiterated on numerous occasions his condemnation of Beijing’s expansion into the South China Sea, where it has sovereign disputes with Vietnam, as well as with Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia.
He has also accused the Chinese government of “destabilizing actions” in the Mekong River, which runs through Southeast Asia, by manipulating the water flows, which affects millions of people in the lower reaches.
The head of US diplomacy began his tour on Monday in India, where he boosted his military alliance with a satellite data exchange agreement that will allow New Delhi to gain more precision in handling its missiles or drones.
The agreement was signed amid rising tensions with China after the July clash in the Himalayas in which 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
In Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Pompeo called Beijing a “predator,” while advocating a “free and open” Indo-Pacific away from Chinese influence.
The secretary of state praised Indonesia for its resistance to Chinese sovereign ambitions in the South China Sea and called the Communist Party of China the “greatest danger to the future of freedom of religion,” especially because of the persecution of the Uyghur Muslim minority.