SINGAPORE – United States Vice President Mike Pence called for an open Indo-Pacific region free of imperial aggression during a bilateral meeting with Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday.
At a joint press conference with Lee, Pence reiterated similar themes to those he promoted during the annual ASEAN Summit in Singapore, which ended on Thursday.
Praising their two nations’ “shared vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Pence said “empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific; this is a region where every nation, large and small, must be permitted to prosper and thrive,” in a thinly veiled reference to China’s regional foreign policy.
China is embroiled in territorial disputes over small islands and reefs in the South China Sea with several ASEAN members, and has been accused of building infrastructure as part of attempts to establish military bases in the region.
Beijing claims complete sovereignty over the South China Sea and has on several occasions also strongly opposed the entry of US warships.
China and the Philippines have competing claims to the Scarborough Shoal and parts of the Spratly archipelago, which is also claimed partially or entirely by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Pence said that “every nation is free to follow its own path and pursue its own interests, where the seas and skies are open to all engaged in peaceful activity.”
The vice president announced that the US and Singapore had finalized two new deals that will facilitate the bilateral exchange of tax information, as well as a plan to collaborate on cybersecurity.
Pence’s next stop will be at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Papua New Guinea.