Pence says 'empire and aggression' have no place in Indo-Pacific

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Mr Pence also had bilateral discussions with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, affirming their growing relationship and the United States commitment to "free and open South China Sea".

Pence's comments follow a major speech in October in which he flagged a tougher approach by Washington towards Beijing, accusing China of "malign" efforts to undermine US President Donald Trump and reckless military actions in the South China Sea.

The two leaders also stressed need for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific while agreeing that there had been a substantial enhancement in the defence relationship and "our imports of equipment from the United States", Gokhale said.

He conveyed to Pence that his vision of Indo-Pacific was gaining acceptability and that "we should utilise the forthcoming East Asia summit to further build on that", Gokhale said, amid China flexing its muscles in the East and South China Seas.

The ambassador also said he doesn't expect the Trump administration to change its North Korea policy after the opposition Democratic Party regained control of the US House of Representatives last week.

With Trump absent in Singapore, diplomats and analysts were questioning whether the U.S. was still a strong partner of Asean nations. On trade - on which the Trump administration has adopted a strident position globally - Mr Modi reminded the USA vice-president that American exports to India had risen by 50 per cent in the past two years, with India importing $4 billion of USA oil and gas this year.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi shared India's "serious concern" at the "mainstreaming" of Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed, who carries a $10 million bounty, in Pakistan's recent elections, when he met US Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit in Singapore on Wednesday.

There was also some discussion on the issue of terrorism and Pence referred to the upcoming 10th anniversary of the Mumbai terror attacks, known as 26/11, later this month.

"So there was some good understanding on the area of how we move forward in building cooperation on counter-terrorism and both countries recognised that this is a challenge which we will have to fight together and to fight along with the rest of the global community", he said. He felt that India's contribution in ensuring this would be important. "We expressed our readiness to import more oil and gas from United States as a way of expanding our trade", he said.

Ahead of his visit, the PM said his participation in the ASEAN-India and East Asia summits symbolised India's "continued commitment" to strengthen its engagement with ASEAN members and with the wider Indo-Pacific region.

"Empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific", Pence said. He also appreciated the cooperation between the USA and India on counter-terrorism.

He added that there had been "tremendous progress" so far in negotiations, namely the North's stoppage of missile tests and the return of U.S. hostages and the possible remains of troops killed in the Korean War.

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