On the second leg of his four-nation tour, US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is in Sri Lanka, after his visit to India, where he held bilateral meetings with his counterpart Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena.
Focusing on a strengthened Indo-Pacific, the visit to India, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia by this senior Trump administration official is to ensure that China and its aggressive policies are put under check.
At the news briefing held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pompeo attacked China calling it a "predator" which continues to violate sovereignty on land and at sea.
"Chinese Communist Party is a predator. The United States comes as a friend and partner," the US Secretary of State said.
He said the US wants to take the partnership with Sri Lanka forward based on democratic values unlike what China wants.
"A strong, sovereign Sri Lanka is a powerful strategic partner for the United States on the world stage. They can be a beacon for a free and open Indo-Pacific. That's quite a contrast to what China seeks," said Pompeo.
"We want the people of Sri Lanka to have sovereignty and independence. We want them to be successful, we want sustainable development for them. We think the US as a friend and partner offers exactly that," he added.
To a question posed to the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister whether if the Pompeo visit would be seen as an irritant by Beijing, he said that Colombo pursued a foreign policy that is "neutral" and wishes to work with everybody.
"Sri Lanka-US relations have moved forward through years of cooperation. Sri Lanka is a neutral non-aligned country committed to peace. We hope to continue our relations with the United States and with other nations," said Gunawardena.
When asked if the US' visit is only directed against China, Pompeo said that "democracies" like the US and Sri Lanka have a "shared vision".
"These are visions the people of Sri Lanka share with the people of the United States. The Chinese have a different vision. We want to make sure the people of Sri Lanka can exercise their sovereign right to remain independent," he said.
In a strong message to fight terrorism and the threat of ISIS/IS, the Secretary of State visited St. Anthony's Church in Kochchikade on Wednesday afternoon which was one of the five sites attacked by ISIS on Easter Sunday in 2019.
"Will pay my respect to hundreds of victims of evil terrorists, including five Americans," he had said at the briefing.