• Melo Acuna

Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers' Meeting held today

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo says US and ASEAN partnership vs COVID-19 in place MANILA – US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo said the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) remains his country’s enduring strategic partners in responding to COVID-19 pandemic as they plan for economic recovery. “We commit to continue our collaboration with ASEAN to beat this pandemic and get back to the business of building a bright future for the region together,” Mr. Pompeo said in his remarks this morning in a video conference dubbed as Special ASEAN-US Foreign Ministers meeting. The meeting is co-chaired by Lao PDRR’s Foreign Minister Saleumxay Kommasith and US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo. In a statement released by the East Asia and the Pacific for the US Department of State shortly before midday today, Secretary Pompeo said they recognize the valuable support in promoting the continued flow of vital medical supplies into the United States, and the support for their repatriation flights. He credited Vietnam for expediting clearances for charter flights to deliver 2.2 million personal protective suits to the United States as they expect more shipments of PPEs ahead. He added Malaysia simplified the speedy deliver of over 1.3 million kilograms of gloves for U.S. health care workers. He said Cambodia helped Americas return home safely from Westerdam cruise ship. In his remarks, Mr. Pompeo said the United States provides generous support to ASEAN nations to response to the COVID-19 pandemic as he called on countries to be consider “full and transparent information sharing.” “Transparency saves lives; suppression puts them at risk,” he added. He said the US-ASEAN Health Futures initiative is launched during the meeting to enhance efforts in health security by way of research, public health and training the next general of ASEAN health professionals. He said his government has released more than US$35.3 million in emergency health funding to help ASEAN countries fight the virus and building on US$3.5 billion in public health assistance provided across ASEAN over the last two decades. Secretary Pompeo said humanitarian aid and services ought to be extended to the most vulnerable populations across the Indo-Pacific, “including those displaced by violence inside Myanmar” as he called on everyone to work with the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to help the Rohingya and other displaced persons. He said his government remains committed to use its available tools to minimize the economic and social damage caused by the pandemic with the US$294 billion two-way goods trade in 2019 and US$273 billion in U.S, Foreign Direct Investments across ASEAN countries with the Development Finance Corporation investing in infrastructure projects in the region. Secretary Pompeo said there are a lot of programs for ASEAN member countries as they remain committed to sustaining their long-term investments in economic technical assistance and human capacity development with the bilateral USAID programs in Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. “Given the strong link between illegal wildlife sold in wet markets and zoonotic diseases, the United States has called on the People’s Republic of China to permanently close its wildlife wet markets and all markets that sell illegal wildlife. I call on ASEAN governments to do the same,” he explained. However, Secretary Pompeo took a swipe at China when he said the long-term threats to shared security have not disappeared. “In fact, they’ve become more prominent. Beijing has moved to take advantage of the distraction, from China’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea,” Pompeo said. He mentioned China’s new unilateral announcement of administrative districts over disputed islands and maritime areas in the South China Sea, its sinking of a Vietnamese fishing vessel earlier in the month as well as its research stations on Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef and most recently, the deployment of maritime militia around the Spratly Islands and a flotilla which included an energy survey vessel to intimidate other claimants from engaging in offshore hydrocarbon development. “It is important to highlight how the Chinese Community Party (CCP) is exploiting the world’s focus on the COVID-19 crisis by continuing its provocative behavior,” he said and referring to the CCP, he added, is exerting military pressure and coercing its neighbors in the SCS.” Secretary Pompeo said they have expressed concerns after a scientific report showed Beijing’s upstream dam operations have unilaterally altered flows of the Mekong river. “The report found that such operations significantly deprived the Mekong countries water for years, with catastrophic results during the most recent dry seasons for the 60 million people who depend on the river for food, energy and transportation. (Melo M. Acuña)

US Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo (right) with Foreign Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. during his visit to Manila last March 1,2019. (File Photo/Melo Acuna)

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