US Ambassador in Dhaka Peter Haas on Monday said Washington does not force countries to choose sides over relations with Beijing as “we don’t expect every country to have the same exact assessment of China as we do”.

“Let me be clear. This is not about forcing countries to choose. It’s about giving them a choice,” he said while speaking at a panel discussion at the “Bay of Bengal Conversation 2022” at a city hotel here.

Haas said even the United States like many other countries have “vital economic or people-to-people ties with China that they want to preserve” while “US diplomacy is based on partnership and respect for each other’s interests”.

“China is also integral to the global economy and our ability to solve challenges from climate to COVID-19. Put simply, the United States and China must deal, with each other for the foreseeable future,” the envoy added.

The ambassador quoted the US President’s recent UNGA address to explain the US stance over China when Joe Biden said “we do not seek a cold war” in reference to China.

Biden last week met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and asked the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to visit Beijing to keep lines of communications open.

 According to Haas the Russian actions currently appeared as the “most pressing strategic challenge” for the US vision for an “open, interconnected prosperous, secure and resilient Indo-pacific”.

“If Putin stops fighting, the turmoil ends. (But) If Ukraine stops fighting, Ukraine ends,” Haas said.

The ambassador, on the other hand, said “China is the only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomacy, military and technological power to do it”.

“Last week, President Biden made it clear to President Xi Jinping that the United States is not looking for conflict but to manage competition responsibly,” he said.

Haas, however, pointed out peoples’ suffering all over the world to cope with the effects of shared problems that cross borders — whether it is climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, or inflation — as the second challenge for the US.

“These shared challenges are not secondary to geopolitics. They are at the very core of national and international security and must be treated as such,” he observed.

 Bangladesh stake

The ambassador said the US’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) was a shared vision with Bangladesh while he quoted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – “Our vision for the region is to have a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive region”.

Haas said his country shared the identical vision with Bangladesh regarding the Indo-pacific region while the US seek to work with Dhaka and other partners to build an free and open, interconnected, prosperous, secure and resilient Indo-pacific region.

The ambassador, in this regard, quoted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina – “Our vision for the region is to have a free, open, peaceful, secure, and inclusive region”.

He said Bangladesh made important contributions to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific by committing to the peaceful resolution of its land and maritime border disputes and “Bangladesh has made the Bay of Bengal an example for the world to follow”.

“We (US) have our own national interests. But I believe we all have a shared vision for the future and a firm belief that we must work together and with other nations to achieve that vision,” he said.

Haas said the US wants an indo-pacific region that stands for transparent governance which is responsive to the people.

Haas said the US launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) to reflect the economic diversity of the region as well as the interconnectivity among partner countries that drives economic growth, job creation, and innovation.

“We will continue to work on these issues (IPEF) and grow our economic partnership bilaterally with all nations, including Bangladesh,” he said.

 The envoy said that the US would seek closer security cooperation with partners to tackle challenges ranging from violent extremism to illegal fishing to human trafficking to ensure a secured indo-pacific region.   

Myanmar issue

Haas called the “brutal military coup in Burma and the genocide against Rohingya” a big security challenge to the region’s stability.

He urged all countries immediately to stop the sale or transfer of arms, military equipment, dual-use equipment, and technical assistance to Naypyidaw.

Hass said the US is working to enhance indo-pacific countries’ resilience to transnational challenges including climate and biological threats to make the region resilient.

The United States is committed to meeting its global responsibility to tackle climate change, by working to deliver funding to international climate finance to help lower-income countries implement their climate goals and ensure a just energy transition, he said.

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