Tuesday 11 May 2021
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Biden calls Xi, flags Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indo-Pacific as concerns

The call from Joe Biden to PM Narendra Modi preceded the president's conversation with Xi Jinping, marking a change in the US foreign policy

United States President Joe Biden on 10 February said that the Pentagon has established a task force to provide recommendations in the next few months to address challenges posed by China. Biden said that the task force will be composed of civilian and military experts across the department and will need a whole government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress and strong alliances and partnerships.

Indo-Pacific a priority for Biden administration

Meanwhile, hours after the announcement, Joe Biden held his first call as president with Xi Jinping, pressing the Chinese leader about trade and Beijing’s crackdown on democracy activists in Hong Kong and other human rights concerns, Associated Press reported. 

A White House statement said Biden raised concerns about Beijing’s “coercive and unfair economic practices”. Biden pressed Xi on Beijing’s crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses against Uighur and ethnic minorities in Xinjiang, and its actions toward Taiwan. Most importantly, Indo-Pacific finds a mention in just the third sentence.

Joe Biden’s call with Narendra Modi came days before the US President’s call with Xi Jinping.

“The task force will work quickly, drawing on civilian and military experts across the Department, to provide, within the next few months, recommendations to (Defense) Secretary (Lloyd) Austin on key priorities and decision points so that we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters, Biden said in his remarks during his maiden visit to the Pentagon. 

“It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships. That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future, he said.

“To be headed by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Dr Ely Ratner, the task force will provide its final findings and recommendations no later than four months after establishment. No final public report is anticipated, although the Department will discuss recommendations with the Congress and other stakeholders as appropriate,” the Pentagon said in a statement.

In his address, Joe Biden said that the US needs to take on the dangers and opportunities of emerging technologies, enhance its capabilities in cyberspace, ensure that America is positioned to lead in a new era of competition, from deep-sea to outer space.  “And we need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep the peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” he said. Vice President Kamala Harris visited the Pentagon along with Biden.

A China task force will study the military’s footprint in Asia, technology, intelligence, the role of allies and partnerships, and other areas of the strategy, The Wall Street Journal reported citing administration officials. The relations between the US and China have deteriorated sharply over the last year in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, China’s efforts to curtail Hong Kong’s autonomy, and the US-China trade war.

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