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World

Biden announces review of China defence stance in Pentagon visit

  • "So often, our armed forces and the Department of Defense staff are how the rest of the world encounters America," Biden said.
Published February 11, 2021

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden announced a review of the US military stance toward China, saying the country needs a "strong" approach, while pledging that his administration will use force only as a last resort.

On his first visit to the Pentagon as president, Biden also sought to break from the policies of his predecessor Donald Trump, promising the US defence force to keep domestic politics out of the country's security.

"I will never dishonor you, I will never disrespect you," he said, as Vice President Kamala Harris and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin stood at his side.

"I will never politicize the work you do."

In brief remarks after meetings with the Pentagon's top generals and civilian leaders, Biden focused on China as the premier strategic threat to the United States.

He announced a special Defence Department task force on China and ordered an immediate review of the military's strategic approach to the challenge from Beijing.

The move was necessary "so that we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters that will require a whole-of-government effort," he said.

"We need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally," he added.

'Meet the China challenge'

The new task force was given four months to come up with assessments and recommendations on US military strategy toward China; technology, force structure and force posture; and alliances and bilateral defence relations with Beijing.

Biden said the results of the Pentagon review needed to be backed by both political parties and Congress, as well as bring together allies and other partners.

"That's how we will meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition in the future," he said.

Biden, whose late son Beau served in Iraq under Austin, also pledged to keep the military strong.

But both he and Austin highlighted the new administration's "diplomacy first" approach, after Trump jettisoned previous policy for a more robust and aggressive "America First" stance with both allies and adversaries.

"So often, our armed forces and the Department of Defence staff are how the rest of the world encounters America," Biden said.

"But our country is safer and stronger when we lead not just with the example of our power, but with the power of our example."

Biden said he would "never hesitate" to deploy US forces to protect vital US interests but that he believes "force should be a tool of last resort, not first."

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