Secretary of State Mike Pompeo outlined new efforts to boost energy and security for five countries along the Mekong River that fortify the U.S. commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

“We will continue to help protect your sovereignty and security, help you prosper economically, and safeguard your rich cultures and environment,” the secretary said at an August 1 event in Bangkok celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Lower Mekong Initiative (LMI).

The initiative connects the United States and five countries located along the Mekong River­: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The LMI works to improve infrastructure and connectivity in the region, with particular attention to food and water security, education, health, energy and women’s empowerment.

The United States also is a development partner of the Ayeyawady–Chao Phraya–Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), which is the regional partnership of the five countries of the lower Mekong region.

Pompeo announced that the United States and Japan are launching the Japan-U.S. Mekong Power Partnership (JUMPP) to develop regional electricity grids with an initial U.S. commitment of $29.5 million. The U.S. also plans to counter transnational crime and trafficking, promising $14 million to assist the Mekong countries.

One of Asia’s longest rivers, the Mekong River hosts an aquatically biodiverse ecosystem, which provides agricultural and business opportunities for the regions that border the river’s path. But recently, the river’s water levels have declined, due to upstream dams that impede water access to the five countries. Pompeo said the U.S. will hold an Indo-Pacific conference that will bolster support for a “transparent, rules-based approach to the Mekong.”

Over the past decade, results of the Lower Mekong Initiative include:

  • Improved drinking water for 340,000 people.
  • Access to updated sanitation systems for 27,000 people.
  • Training in business strategies for 80,000 students.

“The nations of the Mekong have a friend in the United States,” Pompeo said. “And they always will.”