Pompeo hits China over Mekong River dams

Pompeo hits China over Mekong River dams
© Aaron Schwartz

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoAmerica needs a new strategy for Pacific Island Countries Harris to hold fundraiser for McAuliffe ahead of Virginia governor's race It's in our interest to turn the page on relations with Suriname MORE on Thursday warned of "troubling trends" concerning development of the Mekong River region in China.

The Associated Press reported that Pompeo raised concerns that China's efforts would establish a level of Chinese control over the waterway that would usurp authority from the Mekong River Commission, a regional body representing several Asian nations through which the river flows.

ADVERTISEMENT

He cited China's plans to dredge and clear parts of the Mekong River, while constructing dams at other parts, to facilitate the movement of cargo ships.

“We see a spree of upstream dam building which concentrates control over downstream flows,” Pompeo told reporters at a summit of diplomats representing nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), according to the AP. “The river has been at its lowest levels in a decade — a problem linked to China’s decision to shut off water upstream. China also has plans to blast and dredge riverbeds. China operates extra-territorial river patrols.”

More than 60 million people in China and Southeast Asia rely on the river for basic needs. A spokeswoman for the freshwater environmental advocacy group International Rivers in Vietnam told the AP that China's efforts to change the flow of the river would have long-lasting effects.

“Local people within Thailand and the lower Mekong basin know very well the impacts of China’s dams and proposal for rapids blasting on the river. They have been raising concerns over these impacts for a long time,” Pianporn Deetes told the news service.

“The events of recent weeks have shown the dire consequences of damming for the river system,” she added. “While overdue — it is positive that the critical importance and values of the Mekong and the threats the river system faces are being raised in the ASEAN meetings. As well as recognition, we now need concrete and meaningful cooperation.”

Pompeo has been a frequent critic of China. Earlier this year he criticized the country's human rights record, saying abuses of its Muslim minority population had not been seen “since the 1930s.”