12:15 GMT25 September 2020
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - A new US Senate bill calls for investing $1.5 billion in efforts to counter China and enhance American influence in the Indo-Pacific region, a policy summary document posted by Senator Corey Gardner revealed on Monday.

    "[The legislation] authorizes $1.5 billion for 5 years to enhance US presence in the Indo-Pacific," the document said under a section entitled "security interests."

    According to a press release accompanying the document, the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA), introduced by Gardner along with Senators Marco Rubio, Ben Cardin and Edward Markey, will serve as a policy framework to enhance US leadership in the Indo-Pacific region amid, "China’s increasingly assertive rise." The policy if enacted would demonstrate US commitment to a "free and open Indo-Pacific and the rules-based international order," the release added.

    The request also includes $10 million for "freedom of information efforts" in North Korea and would allow the United States to impose economic sanctions on Asian nations that violate human rights.

    The funding is also needed to enforce freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the region, according to the document. The legislation, in addition, "expresses support for regular arms sales to Taiwan and to enhance diplomatic and defense contacts between Washington and Taipei."

    On Monday, Acting US Secretary of State John Sullivan and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono in a meeting on the sidelines of the G7 in Toronto reaffirmed their commitment to a "free and open" Indo-Pacific. Later in the evening, the same message was underscored by Defense Secretary James Mattis in a meeting with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence General Prawit Wongsuwan, according to the Pentagon.


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