Pence Urges Biden to ‘Stand Up to Chinese Aggression’ in Indo-Pacific

January 17, 2021 Updated: January 17, 2021

Vice President Mike Pence urged President-elect Joe Biden on Saturday to stand up to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggression in the Indo-Pacific region.

“As a new American administration prepares to take office, we do well to remember as Americans that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance,” Pence said at the Naval Air Station Lemoore in Jan. 17. “And a free and open Indo-Pacific is essential to our prosperity, our security and the vitality of freedom in the world.”

The vice president said that the CCP “is determined to expand Beijing’s influence across the region through military provocations and dead diplomacy.”

“I urge the incoming administration to stay the course. Do what we’ve done. Stand up to Chinese aggression and trade abuses. Stand strong for a free and open Indo-Pacific and put America and our freedom-loving allies first,” Pence said.

Pence made the remarks during the last week of his service as the vice president and just days after the U.S. Department of State declassified a document outlining the administration’s overarching strategy in the Indo-Pacific. The strategy, in place since 2017, emphasized working with regional allies to counter the CCP’s ambitions in the region and highlighted Taiwan’s role in combating the Chinese regime’s military aggression.

“Beijing is increasingly pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party,” national security adviser Robert O’Brien said in a memo dated Jan. 5 that accompanied the declassified document. “The U.S. approach is different. We seek to ensure that our allies and partners … can preserve and protect their sovereignty.”

The document, titled U.S. Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific, describes how the Chinese regime poses a threat to the United States and like-minded partners in the Indo-Pacific.

“China aims to dissolve U.S. alliances and partnerships in the region. China will exploit vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds,” the strategy document states. “Chinese economic, diplomatic, and military influence will continue to increase in the near-term and challenge the U.S. ability to achieve its national interests in the Indo-Pacific region.”

In terms of confronting the Chinese military, the U.S. strategy committed to “devise and implement a defense strategy capable of” three objectives: deny China sustained air and sea dominance inside the “first island chain” in a conflict; defend the first island chain nations, including Taiwan; and dominate all domains outside the first island chain.

The first island chain is an arbitrary demarcation from the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Taiwan, the Philippines, to Indonesia. For decades, China’s military strategists have seen the first island chain as a barrier to the regime projecting its air and naval power to the second island chain and beyond. The second chain stretches from Japan to Guam and Papua New Guinea.

The U.S. strategy would “enable Taiwan to develop an effective asymmetric defense strategy and capabilities that will help ensure its security, freedom from coercion, resilience, and ability to engage China on its own terms,” the document adds.

Experts noted that the document’s language on Taiwan is a deviation from the U.S. government’s longstanding policy of “strategic ambiguity”—meaning not clearly stating whether the U.S. government would defend Taiwan in the event of an attack by China.

Beijing claims sovereignty over Taiwan despite its de facto nation-state status, with its own democratically elected government, military, and currency. The Chinese regime has repeatedly threatened to use military force to bring the island under its control.

Frank Fang contributed to this report.

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