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US not intending to include China in the new Indo Pacific Economic Framework

According to U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink, the U.S. has “no intention” of interacting with China in its upcoming Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Instead, it talks to partners who share the same objective of a free and open region free of coercion.

Last week, the U.S. pledged to devote more significant diplomatic and security resources to the Indo-Pacific to counter what it perceives as China’s bid to establish a regional sphere of influence and become the world’s most powerful country.

The Biden administration claimed it would focus on every part of the area, from South Asia to the Pacific Islands, in a 12-page strategy summary called the Indo-Pacific Strategy, to improve its long-term position and commitment.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Feb. 17, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Daniel Kritenbrink noted that early negotiations about the economic framework were still ongoing.

He said: “I think it’s safe to say that we are engaged in initial conversations with partners across the region, who share our vision for the kind of region that we want to live in again. A free and open region in which countries are free from coercion and can pursue their economic and security interests freely in an unhindered fashion.

“And you are correct that there is currently no intention to engage the People’s Republic of China on the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework.”

President Xi Jinping has promoted China’s Belt and Road initiative, committing billions of dollars to build infrastructure worldwide.

China has also embraced the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the world’s largest free-trade grouping that excludes the United States.

Earlier this month, China and Russia announced a “no limits” strategic cooperation. Their most explicit and assertive pledge yet is that they will work together—and against the U.S.—to create a new world order based on their conceptions of human rights and democracy.

According to Kritenbrink, Washington could not ignore the challenge posed by China and Russia’s joint statement.

He said: “We stand for a world and a vision grounded in problem-solving and innovation, not coercion and aggression.

“That is our affirmative vision for the region. I think it stands in stark contrast to the vision of others, including that put forward by Presidents Putin and Xi.”

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