However, ASEAN doesn’t want to take sides as there has been a spike in military activities by both powers

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday, urged Southeast Asian countries to stand up against China’s bullying and to reassess business deals with its state firms. While addressing the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) virtually, Pompeo told the foreign ministers to have confidence in the United States, says a report by LiveMint.

“Don’t just speak up, but act,” he said. The top US diplomat told the member nations to reconsider business dealings with the very state-owned enterprises that bully ASEAN coastal states in the South China Sea. Recently, the Trump administration announced sanctions on 24 Chinese entities involved in building artificial islands and installing missile systems in the disputed South China Sea.

According to the report, ASEAN, however, doesn’t want to take sides as there has been a spike in military activities by both powers, US and China, in the South China Sea. This comes ahead of the November presidential elections in the United States with Donald Trump expected to reinforce his anti-China stance. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said they don’t want to be trapped by this rivalry.

China’s State Councillor Wang Yi on Wednesday told ASEAN that the US was interfering in the South China Sea and driving its militarization. For years, China has been stating its stake in this disputed waters but the regional nations and the United States say Beijing’s claim has no basis in international law.

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne reiterated the country’s commitment to a peaceful Indo-Pacific, free from coercion and with sovereignty, international law and the rights of all states respected and upheld.

Read the full report in LiveMint