Pompeo outlines Indo-Pacific security initiatives

People carrying bag away from boat in shallow water (© Chuck Biggar/Alamy)
The new U.S. security funding for the Indo-Pacific region includes a new program in the Bay of Bengal. (© Chuck Biggar/Alamy)

As part of his trip to Asia, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced nearly $300 million “to reinforce security cooperation” in the Indo-Pacific, a region that spans from India to the Pacific Ocean.

The secretary said August 4 that the new funding overall will “strengthen maritime security, develop humanitarian-assistance and peacekeeping capabilities, and enhance programs that counter transnational threats.”

The security assistance will fund projects in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia, Nepal, Pacific islands, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and others.

The effort includes an initiative in the Bay of Bengal, home to sea lanes linking the Indian Ocean to East Asia. The U.S. will work with India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and others to share commercial shipping information to help improve security and respond to emerging threats.

Mike Pompeo seated at desk with microphone [State Dept.]
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Singapore, where he outlined U.S. initiatives for the Indo-Pacific area. [State Dept.]

The secretary’s speech was the second in a series detailing U.S. involvement in the Indo-Pacific. The first, on July 30, included $113 million in U.S. economic assistance for the region, which the secretary called “a down payment on a new era in American economic commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Pompeo was in Asia for the 51st meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. ASEAN was created in August 1967 by five countries that wanted to work together to address challenges in Southeast Asia. The group has grown to 10 countries.

Building partnerships

As part of the initiative, the U.S. will help develop programs that give countries a clearer picture of coasts and waters. These “domain awareness” systems will feature crewed and uncrewed aircraft and vessels and will help improve search and rescue capabilities for countries responding to disasters.

The U.S. also will partner with countries in the region to stop human trafficking and drug smuggling and strengthen the rule of law. Already, the U.S. helps countries through “shiprider” programs, in which law enforcement officers from a coastal state can travel on U.S. vessels and prosecute illegal activities in their countries’ exclusive economic zones.

“We look forward to ASEAN’s continued centrality in the Indo-Pacific region,” the secretary said.