The Trump administration is hard at work seeking cooperation from Asian countries to join Washington’s campaign to counter Beijing in the region. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper continued to push the administration’s anti-China policies while visiting India.
Esper, Pompeo, and their Indian counterparts signed a defense pact that will give India more access to satellite data to increase the accuracy of its missiles and drones. The deal comes as tensions between India and China are high over a border dispute in the western Himalayans that turned deadly over the summer when a skirmish broke out, and 20 Indian soldiers were killed.
“The United States will stand with the people of India as they confront threats to their freedom and sovereignty,” Pompeo said. “Our leaders and our citizens see with increasing clarity that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] is no friend to democracy, the rule of law, transparency, nor to freedom of navigation — the foundation of a free and open and prosperous Indo-Pacific.”
The two US officials met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed coronavirus, security, and defense cooperation. Esper said the US and India will focus on upholding “the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” which the Pentagon chief said was especially important “in light of increasing aggression and destabilizing actions by China.”
The next stop for Pompeo on his tour of South Asia is Sri Lanka. Previous comments from a State Department official about Sri Lanka having to make “difficult but necessary choices” regarding its relationship with China evoked a harsh response from Beijing.
“We are firmly opposed to the United States taking the opportunity of the State Secretary’s visit to sow and interfere in China-Sri Lanka relations, and to coerce and bully Sri Lanka,” the Chinese embassy in Colombo said on Monday.