Pompeo to raise China concerns on Asia tour

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announces his trip to Asia at a news conference
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US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday he would raise concerns about China next week as he travels to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper will be visiting New Delhi early next week for a dialogue with their colleagues from India, whose relationship with China has sharply deteriorated this year over a deadly border clash.

Pompeo said he would afterward visit Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

"I'm sure that my meetings will also include discussions on how free nations can work together to thwart threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party," Pompeo told reporters.

Asked about his stop in Jakarta, Pompeo said: "I know the Indonesians share our desire that there is a free and open Indo-Pacific."

Southeast Asian nations want to ensure "their basic rights -- their maritime rights, their sovereign rights, their ability to conduct business in the way that they want to inside of their country (that) the Chinese Communist Party continues to threaten."

Pompeo has championed a hard line on China on issues ranging from trade to security to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In July, the United States branded Beijing's vast claims in the dispute-rife South China Sea to be illegal.

Sri Lanka and Maldives have been major centers for infrastructure spending by China, to the alarm of both the United States and India.

Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa's brother, former president Mahinda Rajapaksa, borrowed billions of dollars from China for projects including ports, highways and railways, several of which ended up as white elephants that left the island facing a mountain of debt.

Pompeo, an evangelical Christian who often speaks of religious freedom, last year abruptly scrapped a previously planned trip to Sri Lanka in the wake of Islamist attacks on Christian sites on Easter Sunday that killed 269 people.