$410m fund 'shows US is committed' to South-east Asia

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting yesterday. The 25th Asean Regional Forum Retreat session being held at the Singapore Expo yesterday.
The 25th Asean Regional Forum Retreat session being held at the Singapore Expo yesterday. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting yesterday. The 25th Asean Regional Forum Retreat session being held at the Singapore Expo yesterday.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo shaking hands with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi at the East Asia Summit foreign ministers' meeting yesterday. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Pompeo: New fund will counter transnational threats and develop peacekeeping capabilities

United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday said about US$300 million (S$410 million) would be given in funding for security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

This will be in addition to US$113 million in economic initiatives unveiled last week.

Mr Pompeo, who was in Singapore for Asean-related meetings, said: "As part of our commitment to advancing regional security in the Indo-Pacific, the US is excited to announce nearly US$300 million in new funding to reinforce security cooperation throughout the entire region."

The new security assistance will advance shared priorities, especially to strengthen maritime security, develop humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping capabilities, and enhance programmes that counter transnational threats.

"Throughout my Asean-centred engagements these past days, I've conveyed President (Donald) Trump's commitment to this vital part of the world that continues to grow in importance," he said at a press conference.

Mr Pompeo had earlier said the US$113 million investment for technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives was "a downpayment on a new era of US economic commitment to the region".

The amount includes US$10 million to support economic programmes, much of which will fall under the US-Asean Connect programme, a framework created by the US in February 2016 to deepen engagement with Asean.

SEEKING PARTNERSHIP

The United States practises partnership economics; we seek partnership, not dominance.

U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE MIKE POMPEO 

Addressing this initiative again at the press conference, he said: "Economically, President Trump recognises the long-term strategic importance of one of the world's most competitive regions. The Indo-Pacific has been and will be a major engine of economic growth."

The US "seeks partnership, not dominance", he said as he made the case for US businesses to remain engaged in the region, saying this was crucial to America's mission of peace, stability and prosperity.

The Trump administration is working with Congress to pass a Bill in the US Senate that will more than double the government's development finance capacity to US$60 billion to support private investment opportunities abroad.

"These initiatives are strategic investments designed to spur our partners' engagement with American companies," he said.

He also raised concerns about Chinese militarisation of the South China Sea, the importance of a rules-based order in the region, and discussed advancing cooperation on cyber security and counter-terrorism.

The US also "addressed important steps to resolve the humanitarian crisis in the Rakhine state", Mr Pompeo said, while reaffirming support for Myanmar's ongoing democratisation transition.

SEEKING CONCRETE ACTION

We hope the US truly means what it says and will back up what it says with concrete action.

CHINESE FOREIGN MINISTER WANG YI

"Progress on these and other critical security issues is essential to a free and open Indo-Pacific. Asean will remain at the centre of this effort.

"Regarding the issue of good governance, we regret the elections in Cambodia were neither free nor fair. The Cambodian people deserve better," he said.

Precisely what Asean centrality would mean in practice, Mr Pompeo said in response to a question later, "will be up to each of the Asean countries, to see how they will choose to participate".

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi welcomed both the US$300 million and US$113 million security and economic programmes, when asked about it at his own press conference hours later.

However, he also said that the US as "the sole superpower in today's world, with a gross domestic product totalling US$16 trillion" should have given an amount 10 times higher.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 05, 2018, with the headline '$410m fund 'shows US is committed' to South-east Asia'. Print Edition | Subscribe