With the president on the campaign trail, administration officials are crossing the region to counter China’s rise—moves that a Biden administration might embrace.
Trump’s Moves in the Indo-Pacific
Though U.S. President Donald Trump appears to be the underdog next week, the upcoming election hasn’t stopped his administration from embarking on moves across the Asia-Pacific region to counter China’s rise. On Tuesday, after meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a pact to share sensitive satellite information that can provide targets for missiles and drones, the latest major defense deal with New Delhi.
The Trump administration has also pledged to beef up the U.S. diplomatic presence in the region, with Pompeo announcing plans to open the first-ever U.S. embassy in the Maldives on Wednesday alongside other defense deals. Pompeo used visits to the Maldives and Sri Lanka to slam what he has dubbed China’s “debt-trap diplomacy”—predatory loans on infrastructure projects in both countries. Pompeo is visiting Indonesia today.
Those aren’t the only moves that the United States is making. Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite just wrapped up a trip to the region, stressing that the U.S. military was falling behind in competition with China. He traveled through Japan, Singapore, Guam, and Palau—a tiny island that has asked the Pentagon to build bases, ports, and airfields to counter Beijing. “It is an unbelievable threat to our way of life,” Braithwaite said during the trip, which he also used to articulate Chinese military threats in the Arctic.