Pence and China’s Xi de­liver du­el­ing speeches

Belleville News-Democrat (Sunday) - - News - BY GERRY SHIH

HONG KONG

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence and Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping de­liv­ered du­el­ing speeches Satur­day that of­fered a win­dow into how the two gov­ern­ments are seek­ing a truce over tar­iffs – but re­main fun­da­men­tally at odds over eco­nomics, diplo­macy and the race for global in­flu­ence and pri­macy.

Pence, tak­ing the stage shortly af­ter Xi at the Asia-Pa­cific Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion summit in Pa­pua New Guinea, launched a pointed and wide-rang­ing crit­i­cism of China, not just over its com­mer­cial prac­tices but also over its transcon­ti­nen­tal in­fra­struc­ture projects and mil­i­tary ac­tiv- ity in the South China Sea.

Re­it­er­at­ing U.S. com­mit­ment to Asia, Pence saved his most pointed words for Xi’s flag­ship for­eign pol­icy ini­tia­tive – the in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment plan known as the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive – as he warned coun­tries about ac­cept­ing Chi­nese loans for port and trans­porta­tion projects scat­tered from Pak­istan to In­done­sia.

“We don’t drown our part­ners in a sea of debt. We don’t co­erce or com­pro­mise your in­de­pen­dence,” Pence said. “We do not of­fer a con­strict­ing belt or a one-way road.”

The United States “of­fers a bet­ter op­tion,” he said as he un­veiled a new re­gional trans­parency ini­tia­tive and $60 bil­lion in U.S. in­vest­ments for the re­gion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion has voiced a far harder line against China and its grow­ing foot­print and ris­ing as­sertive­ness, spurring talk on both sides of the Pa­cific of a new cold war.

The Chi­nese pres­i­dent de­liv­ered a more con­cil­ia­tory ad­dress on Satur­day as he warned that “con­fronta­tion, whether in the form of a hot war, cold war or trade war, will pro­duce no win­ners.”

He dis­missed crit­i­cism of his Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive as a debt “trap” and in­stead po­si­tioned him­self as a leader of the de­vel­op­ing world who could help lift up poor coun­tries in its or­bit.

MARK SCHIEFELBEIN AP

U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, right, talks Satur­day with Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son at the APEC Eco­nomic Lead­ers Meet­ing summit in Pa­pua New Guinea.

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