(LANKAPUVATH | COLOMBO) –Sri Lanka offers many challenges and opportunities for the United States to grow its relationship with the Indian Ocean island nation and the US needs to build constructive relationships with Sri Lanka, President Joe Biden’s nominee for Ambassador to Sri Lanka said.
Testifying before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on Wednesday, senior Foreign Service officer Julie Jiyoon Chung said US must also be strong partners in encouraging justice, accountability, and reconciliation so that all Sri Lankans can share in the benefits of peace, security, and prosperity.
The Ambassador nominee said Sri Lanka’s position in a strategic location in the Indian Ocean, and its critical ports with access to global maritime lanes and trading routes play a pivotal role in a free and open Indo-Pacific architecture and reinforce the necessity for the United States to build constructive relationships with Sri Lanka.
Chung said if confirmed, she will work tirelessly to advocate for quality infrastructure and investment based on transparency, respect for international law, and good governance, which is mindful of sustainable environmental and labor standards.
“We must also support U.S. companies doing business in Sri Lanka and utilize the tools we have with the Development Finance Corporation and the Export-Import Bank to provide alternatives to coercive lending and opaque contracts,” Chung told the Senate Committee.
Recalling the MV X-Press Pearl Disaster, Chung said the sinking of the cargo ship near the shores of Colombo a few months ago, causing its biggest marine disaster in Sri Lanka’s history, points to the need for upholding such standards.
“U.S. humanitarian assistance, emergency response capabilities, and environmental surveillance tools helped Sri Lanka respond to this tragedy and is emblematic of how we can be a positive force and strong partner to the people of Sri Lanka.”
Sri Lanka is Asia’s oldest democracy and survived the tragedy of a civil war that resulted in unimaginable violence and continued ethnic and religious divisions, Chung told the lawmakers.
“If confirmed, I am committed to speaking clearly and consistently in support of democratic values, human rights and a strong civil society that are essential to democracies and central to our foreign policy approach.”
“We must also be strong partners in encouraging justice, accountability and reconciliation so that all Sri Lankans can share in the benefits of peace, security and prosperity,” Chung added.
The Senior Foreign Officer said she believes most important assets of the U.S. are American innovation, people-to-people exchanges, and education and if confirmed, she pledges to expanding and seeking creative ways to build upon these networks and connections.
“We must also continue to engage the many voices of the Sri Lankan diaspora in the United States who make valuable contributions in our bilateral relationship,” Chung said pledging to make every effort to advance “our values and shared interests” so that Sri Lanka meets its full potential to be a vital partner in the Indo-Pacific.