US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday urged Southeast Asia to cut ties with Chinese companies helping build islands in the South China Sea, weeks after the US blacklisted two dozen firms working in the disputed waters.
Pompeo’s comments came at an ASEAN summit overshadowed by the US-China rivalry over a range of issues, from trade to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tensions are also simmering over the South China Sea, with the US last month sanctioning 24 Chinese state-owned companies that it said had helped Beijing’s military buildup in the resource-rich waterway.
It is time for Southeast Asian governments to reconsider their own relationship with firms working in the sea, Pompeo said.
“Don’t just speak up, but act,” he told the 10 ASEAN foreign ministers during an online summit. “Reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned companies that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea. Don’t let the Chinese Communist Party walk over us and our people.”
This year’s ASEAN summit began days after Beijing launched ballistic missiles in the South China Sea as part of live-fire exercises.
Vietnam, which is chairing the summit, expressed “serious concern” about recent militarization of the sea.
“This has eroded trust and confidence, increased tension and undermined peace, security and rule of law in the region,” Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh said.
However, the Philippines last week said that it would not follow the US lead because it needed Chinese investment, even as a fresh dispute between Manila and Beijing over the Scarborough Shoal (Huangyan Island, 黃岩島) — one of the region’s richest fishing grounds — hangs over the talks.
Taiwan also has claims in the area, including the Scarborough Shoal.
Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi (王毅) blamed the US for tensions, saying that Washington was “becoming the biggest driver” of the waterway’s militarization.
China claims the majority of the South China Sea, invoking its so-called nine-dash line to justify what it says are historic rights to the key trade waterway.
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
A persistent blizzard on Saturday blanketed large parts of Spain with an unusual amount of snow, killing at least four people and leaving thousands trapped in vehicles or at train stations and airports that suspended all services. The national weather agency reported that as of 7am, the snowfall in Madrid reached a level unseen in a half-century. More than 50cm of snow fell in the Spanish capital, the weather agency AEMET said. The bodies of a man and woman were recovered by the Andalucia region emergency service after their car was washed away by a flooded river near the town of Fuengirola.
China has recorded the biggest daily jump in COVID-19 cases in more than five months, despite four cities in lockdown, increased testing and other measures aimed at preventing another wave of infections in the world’s second-biggest economy. Most of the new infections were reported near the capital, Beijing, but a province in northeast China also saw a rise in new cases, official data showed yesterday, amid a resurgence that has seen more than 28 million people under home quarantine. The Chinese National Health Commission said in a statement that a total of 115 new confirmed cases were reported in the country, compared