China’s foreign ministry has slammed as “irresponsible” claims by the US’ top diplomat that China is blocking access to energy beneath the South China Sea.
Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said in Beijing on Wednesday that Beijing had started consulting Southeast Asian nations about resolving disputes in the South China Sea, and called on non-claimant nations to keep out of the discussions.
“Nations in the region are capable of resolving and managing the disputes in their own ways,” Lu said. “Nations outside the region should refrain from stirring up trouble and disrupting the harmonious situation.”
Without specifying, Lu said an “extraterritorial country” repeatedly tried to destabilise the region, working against the interests of the countries in the area.
Lu was responding to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s suggestion that China was blocking energy development in the South China Sea through “coercive means”, preventing Southeast Asian countries from accessing more than US$2.5 trillion in recoverable energy reserves.
Addressing top energy firm executives and oil ministers in Houston, Texas, on Tuesday, Pompeo criticised “China’s illegal island building in international waterways”, insisting that it was not “simply a security matter”.
“By blocking energy development in the South China Sea to coerce, it means China prevents Asean members from accessing more than 2½ trillion in recoverable energy resources,” he said.
“To contrast, the United States government promotes energy security for those Southeast Asian nations. We want countries in the region to have access to their own energy.”
Pompeo’s remarks were the latest in a recent series of comments in which he has ramped up his laser-focused criticism of China. Last week, in Iowa, he said projects under China’s “Belt and Road Initiative” for infrastructure were “almost certainly designed for foreclosure”.
In a meeting with Iowa farmers affected by the US trade war with China, Pompeo also accused China of stealing sensitive technology “essential to farming”, citing two cases involving genetically modified rice and corn seeds.
In his latest comments in Houston, Pompeo went on to say that the US wanted to “create partnerships” with Southeast Asian countries.
“We want transparent transactions, not debt traps,” he said. “We explore responsibly. China doesn’t play by that same set of rules.”
Pompeo went on to criticise China for what he called “debt diplomacy”, claiming Chinese companies are the sole beneficiaries of their overseas investment.
China “often ships in its own labour, creating jobs for Chinese workers rather than for those in the local economy” in places such as Africa, he said.
“It’s using the debt trap … to put these countries in a place where it isn’t a commercial transaction. It’s a political transaction designed to bring harm and political influence in the country in which they’re operating.”
Pompeo then urged the oil industry to work with Washington to promote the American model, and to punish what he called “bad actors”.
“We need to roll up our sleeves and compete by facilitating investments all across the world and encouraging partners to buy from us, and by punishing the bad actors,” he urged.
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This article Beijing hits back at US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s ‘irresponsible’ South China Sea energy claims first appeared on South China Morning Post