'We will not stand down': White House warns China after their latest clash with the US Navy in the South China Sea

US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ricardo R. Guzman/ReleasedThe aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73), center-right, leads the George Washington Carrier Strike Group.
  • Vice President Mike Pence delivered a hard-hitting speech Thursday criticising China for a host of aggressive actions from economics to geopolitics.
  • Speaking on behalf of the White House, he held up the recent clash between US and Chinese warships in the South China Sea as an example of Chinese “aggression.”
  • He warned Beijing that the US “will not be intimidated” and “will not stand down.”

The White House responded publicly Thursday to a heated confrontation between the Chinese navy and a US destroyer in the South China Sea this past weekend.

“China wants nothing less than to push the United States of America from the Western Pacific and attempt to prevent us from coming to the aid of our allies,” Vice President Mike Pence said at the Hudson Institute. “They will fail.”

He explained that China prioritises the erosion of American military power.

“China’s aggression was on display this week,” he said, referring to a dangerous encounter between the People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer Lanzhou and the US destroyer USS Decatur in the hotly-contested South China Sea Sunday. “A Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea, forcing our ship to quickly manoeuvre to avoid collision.”

“Despite such reckless harassment, the United States Navy will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand,” Pence explained. “We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”

Highlighting the Trump administration’s focus on renewed great power competition with China and Russia, the vice president insisted that the US will employ “decisive action to respond to China.”

China has accused the US of endangering regional peace and stability.

“The U.S. side has sent warships into waters near China’s islands and reefs in South China Sea time and again, which has posed a grave threat to China’s sovereignty and security, severely damaged the relations between the two militaries, and significantly undermined regional peace and stability,” the Ministry of Defence said in response to the latest clash.

“The Chinese military resolutely opposes such actions,” the ministry added.

The latest incident in the South China Sea comes amid heightened tensions between Washington and Beijing, and the situation could soon worsen, as the US military is reportedly considering a proposal for a major show of force as a warning to the Chinese, which perceive American actions moves to contain Chinese power.

While the vice president stressed the threats posed by China to American interests, he emphasised that the US desires a productive relationship with Beijing. “But be assured, we will not relent until our relationship with China is grounded in fairness, reciprocity, and respect for our sovereignty,” he said.

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