(SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST) — Chinese and US officials have traded accusations over the two countries’ activities in Southeast Asia, as their strategic rivalry in the region intensifies.

Beijing’s ambassador to Singapore Hong Xiaoyong delivered the latest salvo on Monday, accusing US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper of “fuelling tension by labelling China a threat and calling for joint deterrence.”

He made the remark in The Straits Times in response to an opinion piece by Esper in the same Singapore newspaper a week earlier. Esper had called for closer security relationships with regional allies in Southeast Asia “amid challenges posed by Covid-19 and the Chinese Communist Party.”

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