President Joe Biden announced a new Department of Defense China Task Force and affirmed his commitment to diversity in the armed services in his first visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 10 (UPI) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday announced a new Department of Defense task force to review the agency's strategy on China during his first visit to the Pentagon since taking office.
Biden was joined by Vice President Kamala Harris and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin as he announced the 15-member task force to examine U.S. "strategy and operational concepts, technology and force posture" in China, while addressing Department of Defense personnel.
"It will require a whole-of-government effort, bipartisan cooperation in Congress and strong alliances and partnerships," Biden said. "That's how we'll meet the China challenge and ensure the American people win the competition of the future."
In a statement, the Department of Defense said members of the task force will come from "a wide swath" of the agency including the Office of the Secretary of Defense staff, the Joint Staff, the armed services, combatant commands and representatives from the intelligence community.
"China is seeking to overturn the current rules-based structure, which has benefitted all nations in the Indo-Pacific region," the Defense Department said. "The United States and its allies seek to continue the free and open environment in the region. China is using all elements of national power to bend the nations to its will."
Biden also held his first phone call with Chinese President Xi Jinping since taking office, during which he "underscored his fundamental concerns about Beijing's coercive and unfair economic practices, crackdown in Hong Kong, human rights abuses in Xinjiang and increasingly assertive actions in the region, including toward Taiwan," according to a readout of the call provided by the White House.
"President Biden affirmed his priorities of protecting the American people's security, prosperity, health and way of life and preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific," the readout stated.
Under former President Donald Trump, the United States held a largely adversarial relationship with China, implementing sanctions against the nation with tensions increasing after Trump blamed the country for the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
During his appearance Wednesday, Biden stressed his commitment to upholding the honor of the military and promoting diversity within its ranks.
"You are incredible heroes and incredible patriots. I will never, ever dishonor you, I will never disrespect you. I will never politicize the work you do," Biden said. "This is personal for me. The Biden family is a military family. We learned firsthand some of what your families experienced."
He went on to praise the contribution of Black Americans in the armed services as he and Harris prepared to tour the African Americans in Service Corridor.
"Their contributions were not always recognized or honored appropriately but those contributions have nevertheless helped push our country toward greater equality," he said.
Biden also made a commitment to ensure that all service members are treated with "dignity and respect," highlighting his executive order to reverse the Trump administration's transgender military ban.
"Every single person, no matter their gender identity, sexual orientation, race or religious background deserves to feel safe in the ranks and to have their contributions valued," he said. "It's on all of us to stand up, to speak out when you see someone being abused. This is an organization that has defeated American enemies on land, sea and air and been defined by the way we treat others. So I know this is not beyond us. Not if each of us makes this a priority as well."
Marcia FudgeHousing and Urban Development Secretary.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki (L) looks on as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Fudge, the first Black woman to lead the department in decades, speaks at a news conference in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House. Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo