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Biden announces review of U.S. security approach to China

President Joe Biden speaks to Department of Defense

President Joe Biden speaks to Department of Defense personnel alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin at the Pentagon, Wednesday. Credit: AP/Patrick Semansky

WASHINGTON -- President Joe Biden, citing the "growing challenges" posed by Beijing, announced Wednesday that the Department of Defense will launch a review of the United States' national security approach toward China.

Biden, speaking at the Pentagon for the first time as commander in chief, said the United States needs "to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally."

Last week, in a speech at the State Department, Biden described China as America’s "most serious competitor" as China continues to exert more influence on the global stage.

"It will require a whole government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships," Biden said of rethinking U.S. relations with China. "That's how we'll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future."

The Pentagon, in a statement, said a 15-member task force will be charged with reviewing the nation's strategy toward China and will deliver recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Congress and other stakeholders within four months. Beijing has been accused by the United States and other world leaders of sponsoring cyberhacking and theft of intellectual property, but the country’s leaders have routinely dismissed those accusations.

The new review comes after four years of a more confrontational approach employed by former President Donald Trump, who often dispatched tweets that assailed the country’s trade practices.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken, during his confirmation hearings, told lawmakers that while he disagreed with Trump’s delivery, he believed Trump "was right in taking a tougher approach to China."

Biden also used Wednesday’s speech to pledge his support for U.S. troops, noting the service of his late son, Beau Biden, who served in Iraq as a member of Delaware’s National Guard.

"I will never, ever dishonor you. I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do," Biden said. He was joined by Austin and Vice President Kamala Harris.

Biden promised to bring a "responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long."

"We owe it to you to keep the faith with our sacred obligation to properly prepare and equip you when we send you in harm's way," Biden said. "To care for you and your families both while you're deployed and after you return home."

The trip to the Pentagon was pegged to Black History Month, with Biden paying tribute to Black service members and Austin, the first Black American to hold the top defense post.

"Right now, more than 40 percent of our active duty forces are people of color. ... It's long past time that the full diversity and full strength of our forces is reflected at every level in this department, including our secretary of defense," Biden said.

Austin, in brief remarks, said Biden and his wife, Jill, could relate to the challenges facing military families and he lauded the first lady’s move to restore the Joining Forces program she helped establish under the Obama administration to offer support to military families.

"The Biden family knows what service to country feels like.They understand sacrifice, and they know how to look out for those who look up to them for leadership," Austin said.

Earlier in the day, Biden announced the United States will impose sanctions on military leaders in Myanmar who orchestrated a coup against the country’s democratically elected officials last week.

Biden said the United States will block the military regime from accessing $1 billion in Myanmar funds currently being held in U.S. banks, and will freeze "U.S. assets that benefit the Burmese government."

He called on the military in Myanmar to "relinquish power it seized and demonstrate respect for the will of the people."

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