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story.lead_photo.caption U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, greets General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Yahya Cholil Staquf at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in Indonesia on Thursday and took aim at Chinese aggressiveness in the South China Sea, where it has advanced maritime and territorial claims over the objections of its neighbors, over its handling of the coronavirus pandemic and its repression of religious minorities.

Speaking in Jakarta, the headquarters of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Pompeo praised Indonesia's leadership in ASEAN for pushing back on what he called China's "unlawful" claims and lauded Jakarta's protection of its own territory. He also criticized Beijing for its treatment of religious minorities, calling China "the gravest threat to the future of religious freedom."

Delivering a speech on religious freedom in the capital of the world's most populous Muslim nation, Pompeo denounced the Chinese Communist Party for its reported mass abuses of Muslim minorities in the western Xinjiang region.

"The atheist CCP has tried to convince the world that its brutalization of Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang is necessary as a counterterrorism efforts or poverty -- depending on the audience, they are speaking to," Pompeo said. "I know the Chinese Communist Party has tried to convince Indonesians to look away from the torments your fellow Muslims are suffering."

He dismissed as fantasy Chinese officials' claims that Uighurs are "eager to discard their ethnic, religious and cultural identities to become 'modern' and enjoy the benefits of CCP-led development" and urged Indonesians to reject them.

Earlier, in an appearance with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Pompeo took China to task for threatening its neighbors.

"We respect freedom of the seas, sovereignty and the rule of law," he said. Marsudi agreed, saying "any claims should be based on universally recognized principle of international law," although she did not specify China.

"Our law-abiding nations reject the unlawful claims by Chinese Communist Party in the South China Sea as is clear from Indonesia's courageous leadership on this subject within ASEAN and at the United Nations," Pompeo said. "It's a cause worth pursuing in multilateral settings, and the Trump administration very much supports this."

Earlier this year, the Trump administration clarified its longstanding policy on the disputes by rejecting outright nearly all of Beijing's maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Previously, U.S. policy had been to insist that maritime disputes between China and its neighbors be resolved peacefully through U.N.-backed arbitration. But in a July 13 statement, Pompeo said the U.S. now regards virtually all Chinese maritime claims outside its internationally recognized waters to be illegitimate.

China has pressed ahead with attempts to enforce its disputed claims in the South China Sea, leading to disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia in recent years. It has ignored arbitration rulings that the disputes must be negotiated.

Pompeo said China cannot legally claim the James Shoal near Malaysia, waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off Vietnam, the Luconia Shoals near Brunei or Natuna Besar off Indonesia.

On Thursday, Pompeo said Indonesia's protection of Natuna Besar was a commendable example of "decisive action to safeguard its maritime sovereignty."

"I'm looking forward to cooperating together in the new ways to ensure maritime security and protect some of the world's busiest trade routes," he said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, receives a placard from Yakut Qoumas, left, general chairman of Gerakan Pemuda Ansor next to Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama after a remark at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, receives a placard from Yakut Qoumas, left, general chairman of Gerakan Pemuda Ansor next to Yahya Cholil Staquf, general secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama after a remark at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Yahya Cholil Staquf hold a discussion at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Yahya Cholil Staquf hold a discussion at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, left, talks to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, upon his arrival for their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, left, talks to U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, upon his arrival for their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Yahya Cholil Staquf, left, and Archbishop of Jakarta Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo pose for a photo session after a remark at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, General Secretary of Nahdlatul Ulama Yahya Cholil Staquf, left, and Archbishop of Jakarta Cardinal Ignatius Suharyo Hardjoatmodjo pose for a photo session after a remark at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers his speech at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo delivers his speech at the Nahdlatul Ulama in Jakarta Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration’s rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Adek Berry/Pool Photo via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, talks to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during a joint press conference which was broadcasted online in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, talks to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi during a joint press conference which was broadcasted online in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wave at photographers during their meeting at Bogor Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, left, and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wave at photographers during their meeting at Bogor Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi pose for photographers during their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
In this photo released by Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, left, and Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi pose for photographers during their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs via AP)
In this photo released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, right, talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting at Bogor Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)
In this photo released by the Indonesian Presidential Palace, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, right, talks with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during their meeting at Bogor Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020. Pompeo renewed the Trump administration's rhetorical onslaught against China in Indonesia on Thursday as the American presidential election looms. (Indonesian Presidential Palace via AP)
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