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BRUSSELS: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday vowed a new approach to work closer with allies, promising Washington would not force them to take sides against China.

“When our allies shoulder their fair share of the burden, they’ll reasonably expect to have a fair say in making decisions,” Blinken said at NATO headquarters in Brussels.

“We will honour that — that begins with consulting our friends, early and often.”

The wide-ranging speech on his first official trip to Europe marked a dramatic shift under President Joe Biden from the combative approach of predecessor Donald Trump. It comes a day before Biden will join a video summit with EU leaders to press home the message that his administration wants to rebuild transatlantic ties. Biden is keen to take a multilateral approach as he looks to enlist NATO allies and the EU in a united front of democracies to the authoritarian challenge of China.

“The United States won’t force our allies into an ‘us-or-them’ choice with China,” Blinken said. America’s top diplomat insisted “there’s no question that China’s coercive behaviour threatens our collective security and prosperity”. “But that doesn’t mean countries can’t work with China where possible, for example on climate change and health security.”

Blinken was set to meet EU chief Ursula von der Leyen and foreign policy head Josep Borrell for talks later Wednesday. The US and EU took a first step towards joint action against Beijing by unveiling synchronised sanctions on Monday over the crackdown on the Uyghurs in China. But Brussels irritated Biden’s team by agreeing an investment deal with Beijing weeks before he took office.

Blinken said Washington wants to work with partners to “close the gaps in areas like technology and infrastructure, where Beijing is exploiting to exert coercive pressure.”