Pence remarked that “empire and aggression have no place” in the Indo-Pacific region, a statement which alludes to Beijing's growing influence in the zone.
On Thursday, at the 33rd Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned of a possible 'devastating impact' of protectionism on the regional and global economy.
Lee made the statement, amid the absence of President of the United States, Donald Trump, who was represented by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence at the summit which was held in Singapore.
According to Time, Pence remarked that “empire and aggression have no place” in the Indo-Pacific region, a statement which alludes to Beijing's growing influence in the zone. The U.S. vice president, however, did not explicitly mention China in his comment.
Singapore's prime minister, later, said that ASEAN countries did not want to take sides when pulled in different directions by major powers, but that one day it may have to.
In October, Pence made a similar, although harsher, comment accusing China of maligning Trump as well as of participating in reckless military actions in the South China Sea.
During this high-level meeting, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) member countries were present through Brunei, Cambodia, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The ASEAN summit was accompanied by several side meetings. One meeting of the ASEAN’s free trade agreement (FTA) partners – Australia, China, India, Japan, Korea and New Zealand – gathered to advance the (RCEP), a trade agreement which would involve all parties.
“We reaffirmed our commitment made at the launch of the negotiations to achieve a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial economic partnership agreement establishing an open trade and investment environment in the region to facilitate the expansion of regional trade and investment and contribute to global economic growth and development,” the ASEAN members and partners communicated, through a Joint Leaders’ Statement.