Joe Biden unveils Pentagon task force to meet challenge posed by China, vows to 'chart strong path forward'

Joe Biden unveils Pentagon task force to meet challenge posed by China, vows to 'chart strong path forward'

The task force will be headed by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defence Dr Ely Ratner and will provide its final findings and recommendations within four months

President Joe Biden speaks at the Pentagon on Wednesday, 10 February. AP

Washington: The Pentagon has established a task force to provide recommendations in the next few months to address the challenge posed by China, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday.

“The task force will work quickly, drawing on civilian and military experts across the Department, to provide, within the next few months, recommendations to (Defense) Secretary (Lloyd) Austin on key priorities and decision points so that we can chart a strong path forward on China-related matters,” Biden said in his remarks during his maiden visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday.

“It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress, and strong alliances and partnerships. That’s how we’ll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future,” he said.

To be headed by Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ely Ratner, the task force will provide its final findings and recommendations no later than four months after establishment. No final public report is anticipated, although the Department will discuss recommendations with the Congress and other stakeholders as appropriate, the Pentagon said in a statement.

In his address, Biden said that the US needs to take on the dangers and opportunities of emerging technologies, enhance its capabilities in cyberspace, ensure that America is positioned to lead in a new era of competition, from deep sea to outer space.

“And we need to meet the growing challenges posed by China to keep the peace and defend our interests in the Indo-Pacific and globally,” he said. Vice President Kamala Harris also visited the Pentagon along with Biden.

Biden, Austin and Harris did a walk-through tour of the African-American heritage hall at the Pentagon.

Meanwhile, Senator Rob Portman urged the Biden Administration to reconsider its decision to withdraw a rule proposed by the Trump Administration requiring American schools and universities to disclose partnerships with Confucius Institutes and Classrooms.

“The Biden Administration’s decision to withdraw this rule is deeply disappointing and surprising considering the serious nature of China’s efforts to expand its influence operations inside the United States. I urge them to reconsider, Portman said.

Congressman John Katko, lead Republican of the House Committee on Homeland Security, also opposed Biden administration’s move to withdraw a proposed rule requiring US educational institutions to disclose their relationship with Confucius Institutes, entities in US colleges and schools funded by China’s Ministry of Education.

In another development, Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Senator Marco Rubio, Co-Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), called on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to detail the nature of his company’s dealings with Dahua Technology Co., a Chinese company that has reportedly developed facial recognition software to recognise and report detection of Uyghur Muslims to Chinese authorities, facilitating the Chinese government’s ongoing genocide and other crimes against humanity against the Uyghur people.

“These reports are extremely disturbing, and show that the comprehensive surveillance system that Chinese authorities have deployed against the Uyghurs is just as bad as we had feared, if not worse,” the Senators wrote, citing troubling software features including the Real-time Uyghur Warnings that report individuals with specified facial traits to Chinese security forces immediately.

The Senators in their letter also raised questions concerning Bezos’ awareness of Dahua Technology’s status on the Commerce Department’s Entity List when his company entered into negotiations and agreed to a $10 million contract with the Chinese company as well as Amazon’s criteria to determine when to terminate a business relationship with an entity that engages in human rights violations.

“While buying equipment from Dahua Technology is not illegal, it does raise several questions for you as the Chief Executive of Amazon,” the Senators added. “If these allegations against Dahua are true, it would mean that Amazon willfully ignored guidance from the United States government and purchased equipment from an entity-listed company that is complicit in China’s atrocities against the Uyghurs.”

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