The United States on Thursday urged Sri Lanka to make "difficult but necessary" decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity.
Ahead of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's visit to Colombo next week, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia, Dean Thompson, told reporters that the US wants to partner with Sri Lanka on their shared goals of sustainable economic development and a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The Indo-Pacific is a biogeographic region, comprising the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Ocean, including the South China Sea.
China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam claim parts of it.
"In the interest of strengthening our longstanding partnership with Sri Lanka and reinforcing our long-term commitment to the region, we encourage Sri Lanka to review the options we offer for transparent and sustainable economic development in contrast to discriminatory and opaque practices," Thompson said in a veiled reference to China.
"We urge Sri Lanka to make difficult but necessary decisions to secure its economic independence for long-term prosperity, and we stand ready to partner with Sri Lanka for its economic development and growth," he said.
In Colombo, Pompeo will meet Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to emphasize the US'' commitment to a strong, independent, and democratic Sri Lanka, Thompson said.
"We want to partner with Sri Lanka on our shared goals of sustainable economic development and a free and open Indo-Pacific," he said.
During his meetings, he said the Secretary will also emphasize the ties between people, shared commitment to democracy, and the importance of ongoing regional maritime security cooperation.
"We''ll continue to urge Sri Lanka to advance democratic governance, human rights, reconciliation, religious freedom, and justice, which promote the country''s long-term stability and prosperity and ensure the dignity and equality of all Sri Lanka''s diverse communities," Thompson said.
To a query, he said the US watches closely developments in Sri Lanka on issues related to human rights. The Secretary will, of course, be raising issues related to human rights, reconciliation, and US'' common commitment to democracy, he said.
"Our partnership with Sri Lanka goes back a long way, through a lot of different eras, and right now, we think they''re at a point to make some choices about where they head," he said.
"During the meetings, the Secretary of State will also be discussing the issues related to China," he said in response to another question.