Nov. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said "empire and aggression" has no place in the Indo-Pacific before leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore on Thursday.
Pence, who is expected to attend the APEC meeting in Papua New Guinea on Saturday in place of President Donald Trump, did not mention China by name, but his comments come at a time when Beijing continues to make changes to artificial islands in the South China Sea.
"Like you, we seek an Indo-Pacific in which all nations, large and small, can prosper and thrive -- secure in our sovereignty, confident in our values and growing stronger together," the vice president said, according to Al Jazeera. "We all agree that empire and aggression have no place in the Indo-Pacific."
The United States conducted freedom of navigation exercises in the South China Sea in September, when a U.S. Navy vessel almost collided with a Chinese destroyer.
Pence also called for the pursuit of trade that is "free, fair and reciprocal."
China and the United States have yet to resolve a dispute over tariffs, and Washington has influence over the trade deals Canada and Mexico can sign with China through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA.
China could be pursuing a trade deal with Canada, however.
Xinhua reported Thursday Chinese Premier Li Keqiang met with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the ASEAN summit to discuss trade issues.
Li said China is ready to pursue FTA talks with Canada on the basis of "mutual respect," and pursue a deal that will not conflict with Canada's obligations under USMCA, according to the report.