WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Donald Trump is set to present a new national security strategy in a speech on December 18 that will take a hard line with China, senior U.S. officials say.
News agencies quoted U.S. officials as saying the speech will focus on Trump’s “America First” policy and that the president will brand China as a competitor, accusing it of “economic aggression.”
The U.S. leader at times has heaped wide praise on Chinese President Xi Jinping, but he has also asked Beijing to do more to pressure its North Korean ally over its continued testing of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons and has accused it of unfair trade practices.
“The national security strategy is the starting gun for a series of economic measures against the Chinese,” Michael Allen, a former Bush administration official at Beacon Global Strategies, was quoted as saying by The Financial Times.
“It is sort of the Rosetta Stone for translating campaign themes into a coherent governing document,” he said.
Some critics have cautioned that a more aggressive approach to China could lead to a damaging trade war with the Asian giant.
The security strategy, which was still being drafted over the weekend, is a formal document that each U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has produced, usually every four years.
One official said Trump could also reverse a declaration by his predecessor, Democratic President Barack Obama, that climate change is a threat to national security.
In a speech on December 12, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, said the strategy will focus on projecting U.S. military and economic strength overseas, with a focus on countering China and Russia and containing nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea.
“In many ways, we vacated a lot of competitive space in recent years and created opportunities for these revisionist powers,” McMaster said, referring to China and Russia.
McMaster said that Russia and China were “undermining the international order and stability” and “ignoring the sovereign rights of their neighbors and the rule of law.”
He said that Russia has pioneered “new generation warfare” that uses “subversion and disinformation and propaganda using cybertools, operating across multiple domains, that attempt to divide our communities within our nations and pit them against each other, and try to create crises of confidence.”
McMaster alluded to the assessment by U.S. intelligence officials that Russia conducted a concerted campaign of interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016. Putin and other Russian officials deny that Moscow meddled in the election, despite what U.S. officials say is ample evidence.
Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said on December 13 that McMaster's remarks were "extremely and absolutely wrong" and that Russia "does not indulge in sophisticated subversion in the United States."
Officials said McMaster and his deputy, Dina Powell, oversaw formulation of the strategy. The policy document was written by Nadia Schadlow, an expert on global competition. Schadlow met with Trump personally during the drafting.
With reporting by Reuters, The Hong Kong Standard, The Los Angeles Times, and The Financial Times