Pompeo follows up on Indo-Pacific pledge with visit to Malaysia, ASEAN talks

Pompeo follows up on Indo-Pacific pledge with visit to Malaysia, ASEAN talks

Mike Pompeo will kick off a trip to southeast Asia with a visit to Kuala Lumpur today. The trip comes

Mike Pompeo malaysia indo-pacific

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty

Mike Pompeo will kick off a trip to southeast Asia with a visit to Kuala Lumpur today.

The trip comes after Mr Pompeo pledged $113 million for investments in technology, energy and infrastructure in the region. The move is likely a challenge to China, which has deepened investment and cooperation with the region in recent years through its Belt and Road Initiative.

With the Indo-Pacific forecast to account for approximately half of the world’s economy in the next few decades, the region should be of major interest to Washington. But while the Trump administration has recognised the region’s importance with its “Indo-Pacific Strategy”, it remains to be seen whether Washington is prepared to match China’s engagement in the region; the $113 million pledge is merely a fraction of the trillions already invested by Beijing.

Indeed, Asian leaders are likely to be sceptical of Washington’s sincerity in engaging with the region. President Trump’s “America First” policy makes it clear where his administration’s priorities lie, while Washington’s withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year also sends a poor signal. As such, Mr Pompeo’s trip to the region this week and rhetoric about engagement could just be bluster.

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