Pompeo arrives in Sri Lanka amid China protests

GOING VIRAL: A masked Secretary Pompeo greeted at Colombo airport with a no-contact hand gesture popular in South Asia and other Indianized Hindu-Bhuddist cultures. The Namaskar or Anjali Mundra is accompanied by the word ‘Ayubowan’ (may you have a long life) in Sri Lanka and Namaste in India.

ECONOMYNEXT – US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Sri Lanka on October 27, amid protests from China as part of a whistle stop tour of South Asian nations including Maldives and a public push to keep the Indian Ocean free for international traffic.

“I’m excited to be here in Colombo,” Pompeo said in a twitter.com message after landing.

“I’m proud of the work @USEmbSL does to strengthen our ties with the government, businesses, and people of Sri Lanka and look forward to expanding on those efforts during my visit. #USwithSL”

The US is to have discussions on China’s involvement in Sri Lanka.

He came to Sri Lanka after meeting India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India also has uneasy relations with China.

“Grateful for the opportunity to connect with our partners to promote a shared vision for a free and open #IndoPacific composed of independent, strong, and prosperous nations,” Pompeo said before leaving the US.

China slammed the visit, after Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dean Thompson aid Sri Lanka had to make “difficult by necessary decisions”.

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“As a sincere friend of the Sri Lankan people, China is happy to see the island developing healthy relations with other countries,” Beijing’s embassy in Colombo said.

“However we are firmly opposed to he United States taking the opportunity of State Secretary’s visit to sow (sic) and interfere in China – Sri Lanka relations China-Sri Lanka relations and coerce and bully Sri Lanka.”

The US has been wary of China’s interest in the Indian Ocean.

It has been pushing for a free ‘Indo-Pacific’ along with Japan following China bullying tactics on Vietnam and flying and sailing restrictions in the South China Sea.

China has built artificial islands in the South China Sea (East Sea) and regularly rams fishing vessels of Vietnam, claiming disputed islands and surrounding waters as well as Northern Paracel islands it took control when the US was backing the then South Vietnam.

Vietnam’s territorial waters are now defined by Ly Son an island, where the US once had a naval base and undisputable belonged to South Vietnam.

China also invaded Vietnam in 1979, with tacit US approval, to punish the country for toppling the Chinese-backed Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia.

The Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan are also involved in the South China Sea dispute.

The US blacklisted China Communications Construction group which is a top investor and contractor that has reclaimed the sea off Colombo for its role in building artificial islands in the East Sea.

Sri Lanka’s Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna, a party with Marxist origins, also staged a protest in front of the US embassy in Colombo saying a stalled grant aid project with the Millennium Challenge Corporation would be signed.

Sri Lanka’s current administration had protested the planned signing of a 500 million dollar grant from the MCC during its election campaign in 2019.

Sri Lanka has also cancelled a loan from Japan for a light rail transit project.(Colombo/Oct27/2020)

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