U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a press briefing in Washington D.C., the United States, on March 5, 2020. (Xinhua/Liu Jie)
Does Washington want to maintain peace in the region, or does it just intend to turn the South China Sea into a geopolitical wrestling ground for its own interests?
Washington's coercion tactics against ASEAN are not likely to work. The ASEAN countries share collective sentiments that stability and development are of vital importance to the region.
MANILA, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- Washington has never stopped making waves in the South China Sea. In its latest malicious move, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, when meeting with his counterparts of Southeast Asian countries, accused Beijing of "aggressive campaigns" in the region and asked ASEAN countries to ban Chinese companies "helping build islands."
Pompeo's China-bashing and impudent pressure on ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries only exposed his own intention to stir up troubles in the South China Sea and to sow discord between China and its neighbors, which will find no support nor succeed.
While trying to portray China's action as "aggressive" in the South China Sea, the United States itself is the most dangerous factor fueling militarization and stoking tensions in the region.
Facts speak for themselves. The United States, tens of thousands of miles away from the South China Sea, has sent nearly 3,000 sorties of military aircraft to the region in the first half of 2020.
The PLA air force planes are seen conducting training exercises, Nov. 19, 2017. (Xinhua/Chen Liang)
And despite the unfettered passage of tens of thousands of commercial ships via the waterways every year, Washington sent aircraft carriers and other warships here more than 60 times between January and June under the pretext of protecting "freedom of navigation."
People cannot help but wonder the true intentions of U.S. muscle-flexing here. Does Washington want to maintain peace in the region, or does it just intend to turn the South China Sea into a geopolitical wrestling ground for its own interests?
Washington's coercion tactics against ASEAN are not likely to work. Earlier this month, Philippine presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said President Rodrigo Duterte had already rejected calls to halt infrastructure projects involving Chinese firms blacklisted by the United States. Roque said Duterte "clearly said that he would not kowtow to the directives of the Americans because we are a free and independent country, and we need the investors from China."
The Philippines' position reflects the collective sentiments of ASEAN countries that stability and development are of vital importance to the region.
In recent years, China and ASEAN countries have shown willingness and wisdom to jointly safeguard peace and stability in the South China Sea and their efforts have yielded positive outcomes.
Aerial photo taken on April 15, 2019 shows the Alliance Steel at the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park in Pahang, Malaysia. (Xinhua/Zhu Wei)
Last year, China and ASEAN countries finished the first reading of the Code of Conduct (COC) Single Draft Negotiating Text ahead of schedule, an important step toward reaching an agreement. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, both sides have been working together to push forward negotiations.
Defying the pandemic's economic shock, China's trade with ASEAN countries rose 7 percent to reach 2.93 trillion yuan (428 billion U.S. dollars) during the January-August period.
China, ASEAN and some other regional partners are currently working toward the signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement within this year as planned. In the future, ASEAN countries will see their trade with China even more prosperous.
A peaceful South China Sea is to benefit all regional countries, while a troubled South China Sea would only serve Washington's selfish interests.
If Washington really cares about peace and stability in the South China Sea and the development interests of regional countries, it should immediately stop any interference or muscle flexing and learn to respect the rights and wishes of relevant countries. ■