PARAMARIBO, Suriname/GEORGETOWN, Guyana (Reuters) – China’s embassies to Suriname and Guyana on Friday accused U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of “spreading rumors” and “smearing” Beijing, after Washington’s top diplomat criticized Chinese companies during a four-stop South America tour.
In a joint appearance with newly elected Surinamese President Chan Santokhi on Thursday, Pompeo said Chinese companies often do not compete on a “fair and equitable basis.”
“We’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party invest in countries, and it all seems great at the front end and then it all comes falling down when the political costs connected to that becomes clear,” Pompeo said.
His comments came after a string of oil discoveries off the coast of Suriname, whose trade ties with China grew under the small South American country’s former President Desi Bouterse, a military strongman who oversaw an economic collapse and lost a re-election bid to Santokhi earlier this year.
China lent and invested heavily in resource-rich Latin America during the decade-long commodities boom that largely ended in 2014. The Trump administration has sought to highlight the heavy debts and economic deterioration those ties have left for close Chinese trade partners like Venezuela and Ecuador.
The Chinese embassy to Paramaribo said in a statement that “any attempt to sow discord between China and Suriname is doomed to fail.”
“We advise Mr. Pompeo to respect facts and truth, abandon arrogance and prejudice, stop smearing and spreading rumors about China,” it added.
China’s embassy to neighboring Guyana issued a similar statement later on Friday after Pompeo visited Georgetown, arguing Beijing “attaches no political strings in bilateral pragmatic cooperations.”
Santokhi had told reporters on Thursday that Suriname’s relationship with China was not a topic of conversation in his meeting with Pompeo.
“It is not a question of making choices,” he said.
(Reporting by Ank Kuipers in Paramaribo, Suriname and Neil Marks in Georgetown, Guyana; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Dan Grebler and Richard Chang)