U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) meets Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih. (Photo: Twitter)
MALE: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday the Chinese Communist Party had brought lawlessness to Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
The five-day tour is aimed at girding allies against China’s increasing political and military inroads in the region in recent years.
Pompeo said on Wednesday that Washington would open an embassy in the Maldivian capital of Male for the first time, in an attempt to counterbalance Chinese presence there, Reuters reported.
China has invested billions of dollars in projects in Sri Lanka and the Maldives as part of its Belt and Road Initiative of transport and energy links, a program the United States believes is designed to trap smaller countries into debt.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pompeo arrived in Sri Lanka where he met with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and said China was preying on the country.
“We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator, and the United States comes in a different way, we come as a friend, and as a partner,” Pompeo told a televised news conference in the capital, Colombo.
Pompeo said a strong, sovereign Sri Lanka was a powerful strategic partnership for the United States on the world stage, and it could be a beacon for free and open indo-pacific.
Making his remarks to the media after bilateral engagement with President Gotabya Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardane, he said the U.S. approach is quite contrasted to what China seeks. He even called the Communist Party of China (CPC) a predator.
“We see from deals that violate sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea-that the CCC a predator,” he said.
He said his country seeks to strengthen partnerships with democratic, peaceful, prosperous, and fully sovereign Sri Lanka.
Addressing a joint press conference, he underscored that the Sri Lankan garment factories undertook hundreds of orders to supply high-quality Personal Protective Equipment (PPP) to the United States. He expressed gratitude for it and called it an act that saved the lives of Americans.
“President Donald Trump is working hard with the private sector to develop vaccines that beat this virus and benefit our people and the peoples of the entire world. We need the power of private industry to regain our economic footing now and in the future, we look forward to working with the people of Sri Lanka on that matter,” he said.
(With inputs from agencies)