Pompeo, in Indonesia, renews China attacks as US vote looms

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In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi pose for photographers during their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)

JAKARTA – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms.

With China a central theme in President Donald Trump’s campaign to win a second term in just five days time, Pompeo took aim at Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea, where it has advanced maritime and territorial claims over the objections of its smaller neighbors, over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its repression of religious minorities.

Speaking in Jakarta, the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pompeo praised Indonesia’s leadership in ASEAN for pushing back on what he called China’s “unlawful” claims and lauded Jakarta's protection of its own territory. He also attacked Beijing for its treatment of religious minorities, calling China “the gravest threat to the future of religious freedom."

Delivering a speech on religious freedom in the capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, Pompeo denounced the Chinese Communist Party for its reported mass abuses of Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang region.

“The atheist CCP has tried to convince the world that its brutalization of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang is necessary as a counterterrorism efforts or poverty - depending on the audience, they are speaking to,” Pompeo said. ”I know the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering."

He dismissed as fantasy Chinese officials' claims that Uighurs are “eager to discard their ethnic, religious and cultural identities to become ‘modern’ and enjoy the benefits of CCP-led development" and urged Indonesians to reject them.

Earlier, in an appearance with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Pompeo took China to task for threatening its neighbors.

“We respect freedom of the seas, sovereignty and the rule of law,” he said, standing beside Marsudi. Marsudi agreed, saying “any claims should be based on universally recognized principle of international law" although she did not specifically mention China.