US State Secretary Mike Pompeo’s visit to the South Asian island nations – Sri Lanka and the Maldives, has pushed the anti-China rhetoric further after gaining the support of India, Australia and Japan through the strategic alliance – the Quad.
“We see from bad deals, violations of sovereignty and lawlessness on land and sea that the Chinese Communist Party is a predator,” Pompeo said in Sri Lanka. “The United States seeks to strengthen our partnership with democratic, peaceful, prosperous and fully sovereign Sri Lanka.”
Pompeo’s assault on Beijing wasn’t well-received in Sri Lanka. China has invested extensively in the island nation through its Belt and Road Initiative to create infrastructure including ports.
Experts have warned Sri Lanka that it may fall for China’s ‘Debt trap’ diplomacy as Sri Lanka had relied heavily on China to construct a $1.5 billion port in Hambantota in the country’s south which has already been leased back to China for 99 years as it didn’t create enough revenue to pay back the loan.
The Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka sharply replied to Pompeo’s claims in a series of tweets.
Sorry Mr. Secretary @SecPompeo , we're busy promoting #China–#SriLanka friendship and cooperation, not interested in your #AlienVsPredator game invitation. The US can play two roles at the same time as always. pic.twitter.com/9Od8xsUphb
— Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka (@ChinaEmbSL) October 28, 2020
President @GotabayaR denied #DebtTrap w/ only 10%(2019) & 12%(2018) #SriLanka foreign debt owned to #China.#HambantotaPort is NOT Debt for Equity Swap. Its $1.12B leasing payment from Chinese operator in 2017 were repaid to western high-interest borrowings but not Chinese banks pic.twitter.com/OIhf3z7yK6
— Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka (@ChinaEmbSL) October 30, 2020
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa also slammed Pompeo’s predator comment on China saying that Colombo owes much to Beijing for its development assistance since 2009 when the country’s nearly 30-year ethnic conflict between the majority Sinhalese and the minority Tamils ended, reported Nikkei Asia.
However, Maldives tells another story. On his visit, Pompeo announced plans for the opening of a US embassy in Male. The announcement follows a new defence deal signed between the US and Maldives to strengthen defence and security cooperation in the Indian Ocean.
Chinese government’s mouthpiece, Global Times (GT), said that Washington had found a small country [Maldives] that can be exploited to serve its geopolitical goals. Citing Chinese experts, the tabloid further states that if it were not for China’s investment in and cooperation with the Maldives, the US wouldn’t even bother looking at it, let alone opening an embassy there.
It acknowledged the Maldives government support for India in the Indian Ocean and said that India wanted to bring the US into the region to check China’s rise.