August 1, 2019 / 11:11 AM / 2 months ago

Pompeo blasts Chinese 'coercion' in South China Sea

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a joint news conference with his Thai counterpart Don Pramudwinai (not pictured) after a bilateral meeting, on the sidelines of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers' meeting in Bangkok, Thailand August 1, 2019. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

BANGKOK (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Thursday criticized Chinese “coercion” in the disputed South China Sea, highlighting a divide with Beijing at a meeting of Southeast Asian nations with world powers.

Tensions have risen in the South China Sea over recent incidents between Chinese and Vietnamese and Philippine ships, the latest confrontations in a potential global flashpoint where the United States challenges China’s sweeping maritime claims.

He also said he regretted that he was unable to meet with North Korean representatives at the forum, adding that Washington is “ready to go” with restarting denuclearization talks with Pyongyang after it test-launched a missile the previous day.

Pompeo said he had urged regional allies “to maintain the sanctions that spur diplomacy with North Korea, to speak out against Chinese coercion in the South China Sea, to advocate for the voluntary safe and dignified return of the Rohingya to their homeland, and to confront Iranian aggression.”

Writing by Kay Johnson. Editing by Matthew Tostevin

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