"It is clearly in America's strategic interest to deepen engagement in the region", Pompeo said.


Earlier in the day, Pompeo launched the economic and commercial pillars of the Trump administration's Indo-Pacific strategy.

"The fact is that we demonstrate consistently that Australia is very focused on making sure that we can help the least-developed economies in our region to get on to a more economically sustainable footing", he said.

Eswar Prasad, a Cornell University trade professor and former head of the IMF's China division, said the USA initiatives were small in comparison to Chinese investments.

"We aspire to a regional order, independent nations that can defend their people and compete fairly in the worldwide marketplace", he said.

"The way you convince them is that you demonstrate that over the course of history, over the even near term and medium term, that developing relationships with the United States, that having transparency, actually turns out to be better for the leadership and for the people in each of these countries", Pompeo said.


The agreement will be seen as a move to counter China's expansion, and its debt-laden financial help to Pacific nations.

"A free and open Indo-Pacific is America's chosen course - and we hope that it will be yours too", he said. We want it to be free, we want it to be open. "This is key to global peace", Mr Pompeo said.

"We have a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific and it doesn't exclude any nation", Hook said, "and we welcome contributions by China to regional development".

In contrast, Qin believes that the USA initiatives on digital connectivity, energy projects, and infrastructure target the needs of this region and will foster fair and reciprocal relationships, with U.

The measures include a US$25 million initial investment to improve digital connectivity in partner countries and to expand opportunities for U.S. technology exports. Still, he frequently sought to frame United States companies as the better partners for countries seeking foreign investment.


Background: Pompeo's announcement is meant to kick of his trip to the 25th Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum by signaling that smaller countries drawn to China's economic outreach can rely on the United States.

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