America must forge constructive ties with Lanka (US diplomat)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States must forge constructive relations with Sri Lanka, which is strategically located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, said a senior American diplomat appointed by President Joe Biden as his envoy to of the island nation.
Foreign Service Officer Julie Chung, during a congressional hearing on Wednesday, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Sri Lanka is strategically located in the heart of the Indian Ocean and its ports critical with access to global sea lanes and trade routes. play a central role in a free and open Indo-Pacific architecture.
“This reinforces the need for the United States to establish constructive relations with Sri Lanka, including with civil society, the private sector and the Sri Lankan people,” she said.
Chung told lawmakers that if confirmed, she would work tirelessly to advocate for quality infrastructure and investments based on transparency, respect for international law and good governance, mindful of environmental and labor standards. sustainable.
“We must also support American companies doing business in Sri Lanka and use the tools available to us with the Development Finance Corporation and the Export and Import Bank to provide alternatives to coercive loans and opaque contracts,” he said. she declared, without citing any country.
China is one of the biggest investors in various infrastructure projects in Sri Lanka. But there has been criticism, both local and international, and growing concerns that China has lured Sri Lanka into a debt trap.
The previous government of Maithripala Sirisena ceded the Port of Hambantota to a Chinese state-owned company in 2017 for a 99-year lease in the form of a $ 1.2 billion debt swap.
US diplomat Chung said: “The sinking of the cargo ship MV X-Press Pearl near the coast of Colombo a few months ago, causing the biggest maritime disaster in Sri Lanka’s history, underlines the need to meet these standards” .
“US humanitarian assistance, emergency response capabilities and environmental monitoring tools have helped Sri Lanka respond to this tragedy and are emblematic of how we can be a positive force and a strong partner for the Sri Lankan people, ”she said.
Sri Lanka, she said, is Asia’s oldest democracy and has survived the tragedy of a civil war that has resulted in unimaginable violence and persistent ethnic and religious divisions.
“If this is confirmed, I pledge to speak clearly and coherently in favor of democratic values, human rights and a strong civil society which are essential to democracies and at the heart of our approach to foreign policy .
“We must also be strong partners in fostering justice, accountability and reconciliation so that all Sri Lankans can enjoy the benefits of peace, security and prosperity,” Chung added.

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