Efforts by the United States to build a coalition among its Southeast Asian allies to contest China’s claims in the South China Sea appear to have fallen flat.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s efforts to rally support and unite Southeast Asian nations against China’s aggressive claims in the region have fallen on deaf ears.
Following its latest policy statement on the South China Sea disputes, the US State Department scrambled to build regional support against China.
However, eager to maintain stable ties with China, key Southeast Asian countries have publicly distanced themselves from Pompeo’s statements. Others gave either a tepid response or remained internally divided on whether they should fully align with America’s toughening position.
In a major escalation in its ongoing Cold War with Beijing, Pompeo vowed to prevent a Chinese “maritime empire” and support “Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law.”
China Deploys Corruption Tactics to Win One Belt, One Road Projects in Malaysia: WSJ
An investigation by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published on Jan. 7 revealed that senior Chinese officials in 2016 offered to bail out the heavily-indebted 1MDB, a Malaysian fund founded by former Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak, and tried to exert China’s influence in the United States and other countries to pressure them into dropping their corruption probes into the fund.
China’s bailout offer was negotiated by Malaysian businessman Jho Low at the request of Najib, according to WSJ. At the time, 1MDB could not repay the $13 billion it had borrowed.
Low is now a fugitive hiding in China, Malaysian officials told WSJ. In the United States and Malaysia, he is accused of criminal charges of orchestrating a money-laundering scheme to misappropriate funds taken from 1MDB.