China state media slams Pompeo's warnings in Latin America as 'ignorant and malicious'

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters during the trip that "when China comes calling, it's not always to the good of your citizens". PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI (REUTERS) - Chinese state media sharply criticised US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday (Oct 22) after he made comments in Latin America warning about the risks of seeking Chinese investment.

Mr Pompeo was on a Latin America tour at the end of last week, meeting the heads of state in Panama and Mexico. Mr Pompeo told reporters during the trip that "when China comes calling, it's not always to the good of your citizens".

"When they show up with deals that seem to be too good to be true, it's often the case that they, in fact, are," he said last Thursday in Mexico City, according to comments posted on the US State Department's website.

In an editorial on Monday, the state-run China Daily newspaper said Mr Pompeo's comments were "ignorant and malicious", and criticism that its ambitious Belt and Road infrastructure initiative was creating debt traps in other countries was false.

President Xi Jinping has been pushing the plan to expand trade corridors along a modern-day Silk Road linking Asia, Europe and Africa, pumping credit into building roads, railways and ports in a trillion-dollar infrastructure initiative.

The country is keen to bring Latin American countries on board as well, though the initiative has started to face rising scepticism as some countries, such as Sri Lanka, have become saddled with debt that they had struggled to repay.

Mr Pompeo said the United States welcomed competition from China, but criticised a lack of transparency at its state-owned enterprises and what he called "predatory economic activity".

In comments made in Panama, he said that countries should have their "eyes wide open" when it came to Chinese investment.

"It's simply the case that in parts of the world, China has invested in ways that have left countries worse off, and that should never be the case," he said.

The state-owned Global Times said in a separate editorial on Monday that Mr Pompeo's comments were "disrespectful", adding that the United States was trying to "drive a wedge" between growing Sino-Latin American relations.

While the United States has traditionally had strong political clout in the region, China has become a major trade partner for many Latin American countries, including Argentina, Chile and Brazil.

"Most countries are disappointed with the US and want to shed themselves of US dependence," the newspaper said. "Latin American countries know how to weigh their interests."

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