US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday announced a new $300 million fund for security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region where Washington and Beijing are competing for influence.
"As part of our commitment to advancing regional security in the Indo-Pacific, the US is excited to announce $300 million of new funding to reinforce security cooperation throughout the entire region," Pompeo told a press briefing on the sidelines of a meeting of Foreign Ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in Singapore.
The new security assistance is designed for maritime security, humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping capabilities, and countering transnational threats, Efe news reported.
"This new security assistance will advance our priorities, especially strengthening maritime security, developing humanitarian assistance and peacekeeping capabilities," Pompeo said.
Earlier this week, the US said it will invest $113 million in technology, energy and infrastructure initiatives.
The top US official said that he discussed Chinese militarisation of the South China Sea and the importance of a rules-based order in the region with the Asean nations. He also highlighted US President Donald Trump's commitment to the Indo-Pacific strategy as a major engine for economic growth.
Regarding North Korea, Pompeo said pressure on Pyongyang should be maintained as concerns mount about the Kim Jong-un regime's willingness to denuclearise.
He said he discussed with Chinese officials the US decision to maintain sanctions on North Korea. "We also talked about the importance of enforcing UN Security Council resolutions and they made clear their commitment to do that."
However, Pompeo said the US was confident North Korean denuclearisation would be implemented according to the accepted timeline.
The Asean meeting coincided with a bitter trade dispute between Washington and Beijing. Talking about the ongoing row, Pompeo said: "President Trump inherited an unfair trade regime where American workers in American companies are not treated reciprocally or fairly by the Chinese. Efforts of the Trump administration are to right that, to correct that, to adjust that."
Trump threatened to double tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, while China said it would impose tariffs ranging from 5 to 25 per cent on $60 billion worth of American products.