The United States last week promised to devote more diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to push back against what it sees as China’s attempt to create a regional sphere of influence and become the world’s most influential power.
In a 12-page strategy overview, the Biden administration said it would focus on every corner of the region from South Asia to the Pacific Islands to strengthen its long-term position and commitment.
The document reiterated US plans to launch an Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in early 2022, an initiative that the administration hopes will at least partially fill a large gap in cooperation with the region since former President Donald Trump left a multinational trade framework in 2017.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, speaking to reporters at a Thursday conference, said there were ongoing discussions about the economic framework.
“I think it is safe to say that we are engaged in initial talks with partners across the region who share our vision for the kind of region we want to live in again, a free and open region where countries are free from coercion and are able to pursue their economic and security interests freely in an unhindered way, “he said.
“And you are right that there is currently no intention to engage the People’s Republic of China in the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.”
China has also supported the world’s largest free trade bloc, which excludes the United States, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
China and Russia declared a “no borders” strategic partnership earlier this month, their most detailed and assertive declaration of working together – and against the United States – to build a new international order based on their own interpretations of human rights and democracy.
Kritenbrink said Washington could not “reject the challenge” that the vision put forward by the joint statement of China and Russia.
“We stand for a world and a vision based on problem solving and innovation, not coercion and aggression,” he said.
“It is our affirmative vision for the region. I think it stands in stark contrast to the vision of others, including the one put forward by Presidents Putin and Xi.”