Pompeo eyes Indo-Pacific vision in ASEAN

By Cao Siqi Source:Global Times Published: 2018/8/3 23:23:41

Plan ‘not likely to receive warm welcome’: Chinese analysts

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will flesh out more details of the White House's Indo-Pacific strategy during his five-day visit to Southeast Asia, but it is unlikely to receive a warm welcome from the regional countries, Chinese analysts say.

Pompeo arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on Thursday evening en route to ASEAN regional meetings in Singapore. He met with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Friday.

Neither Pompeo nor Mahathir made any public remarks as they shook hands at Mahathir's office, where Pompeo's aides said he intended to congratulate the prime minister on his coalition's victory, the Washington Post reported.

The report said Pompeo planned to talk with Mahathir about Trump administration's Indo-Pacific strategy, with its vision for an "open, transparent, rules-based region," as Pompeo said at a press conference on Monday in Washington.

Before his trip, Pompeo announced $113 million in direct government investment to the Asia-Pacific region, focused on technology, energy and infrastructure.

Chinese analysts said the US' Indo-Pacific strategy aims to reinvent its previous impact in Southeast Asia while containing China's increasing influence in the region. However, they estimated that the regional countries will not show strong interest in the strategy, and seeking a balance between China and the US will still be their top priority.

"The main purposes of the Indo-Pacific strategy are clear. On one hand, the US tries to establish an Indo-Pacific geopolitical order that targets China; on the other hand, the US aims to formulate a trade rule centered on itself," Li Haidong, a professor at the China Foreign Affairs University's Institute of International Relations, told the Global Times on Friday.

During this visit, Pompeo will illustrate the core concepts of this strategy while revealing some real actions. But it will not "make a big wave" in the region as the regional countries no longer trust and rely heavily on the US, Li said.

Echoing Li, Zhu Zhenming, a professor at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, said that Southeast Asian countries are not familiar with the strategy and they need time to research it. Meanwhile, the regional countries have realized that China can also provide funds, technologies and talents.
If the Southeast Asian countries do not show much interest in the strategy, the US will make further moves, such as providing more favorable policies or imposing more pressure, Zhu noted.

Xu Liping, an expert on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the ASEAN region wants to take a dominant position in the strategy, which may be hard for the US to accept.

Managing differences

Pompeo's visit comes amid a trade conflict between China and the US.

Both China and the US should manage their differences through dialogue and consultation, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made the remarks on Friday when meeting with Pompeo on the sidelines of the ASEAN foreign ministers' meeting, Xinhua reported on the same day.

"Cooperation is the only right choice for China and the US. It's also the universal expectation of the international community," said Wang, adding that confrontation could bring only lose-lose situation detrimental to world peace, stability and development.

He said both sides should manage differences and solve problems through dialogue and consultation on the basis of mutual respect and an equal footing so as to guide China-US relations to move forward on the right track.

For his part, Pompeo said the US-China relations are very important, adding the US side expected both the US and China to succeed, and it had no intention of thwarting China's development.

After Wang met Mahathir on Wednesday, the world has realized that what the Southeast Asian countries care most about is the trade conflict between China and the US as it may harm their interests and force them to take side, said Li Haidong, adding that the regional countries' priority is to seek a balance between China and the US.

"China will still insist on the established policies with the ASEAN members and continue pushing forward cooperation under China-proposed Belt and Road initiative. We welcome the US to participate in the cooperation within the region and formulate more plans that will benefit the regional development," said Xu.

In Jakarta on Saturday and Sunday, Pompeo is expected to reinforce the US-Indonesia strategic partnership as the two nations look ahead to celebrating 70 years of bilateral diplomatic relations in 2019.

Posted in: POLITICS

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