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US to establish Pacific Deterrence Initiative to counter China

WASHINGTON (PTI): The US is all set to establish a USD 2.2 billion Pacific Deterrence Initiative, aimed at enhancing America's deterrence and defence posture; increasing readiness and capability in the Indo-Pacific region; and deepening cooperation with allies and partners including India, Australia and Japan, amid China flexing its muscles in the region.

The bipartisan Congressional conference report on National Defence Authorisation Act for the fiscal 2021 has budgeted USD 2.2 billion to establish the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI), which, lawmakers said, send a strong signal to China and any potential adversaries, as well as to its allies and partners, that America is deeply committed to defending its interests in the region.

According to the summery of the "William M. 'Mac' Thornberry National Defence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021" released by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the conference report authorises more than USD 135 million above the President's budget request for the Army's Multi-Domain Task Force deployment to the region, the Mission Partner Environment, Joint Task Force Indo-Pacific, Counter-Terrorism Information Center, Joint Interagency Task Force-West, and military construction planning and design.

"The newly established PDI will enhance budgetary transparency and oversight - ensuring that available budgetary data is organised according to regional missions and combatant command priorities to best assess NDS (National Defense Security) implementation, it said.

The bill, after its House and Senate versions were reconciled by a bipartisan Congressional conference committee last week, is slated to be passed by both the chambers of the Congress this week before it is sent to the White House for President Donald Trump to sign it into law.

Trump has threatened to veto the bill as it lacks a repeal of legal protections for social media companies. However, the NDAA has been passed by the Congress for the last 59 years.

This year's bipartisan NDAA conference agreement focuses on priorities like implementing the National Defense Strategy to confront current and future security challenges from China, Russia, transnational terrorism, and beyond; and regaining a wide margin of military superiority.

In addition to establishing the PDI, the Conference Report also includes numerous provisions to deter China's alleged malign behaviour, position the US for strategic competition, and protect American assets from infiltration, including: protecting federal investments in defense-sensitive intellectual property, technology, and data from acquisition by China.

Prominent among these are creating mechanisms to restrict employees or former employees of the defence industrial base from working directly for companies wholly owned by, or under the direction of China; requiring universities to share information on defense-funded research, limiting funding for universities with Confucius Institutes, and requiring the disclosure of external funding for federal grant recipients.

It also directs the President to create a whole-of-government strategy to impose costs on China to deter industrial espionage and the large-scale theft of personal information by China, establishes a continuous assessment activity for industrial bases of foreign adversaries beginning with China, and requiring the public reporting in the Federal Register of Chinese military companies operating in the United States.

The NDAA seeks prohibiting the commercial exports of covered defense articles and services and covered munitions items to the Hong Kong Police; includes efforts to pursue China's graduation from World Bank assistance; and tasks the Department of Defense and a Federally Funded Research and Development Center with comprehensive comparative studies of the notoriously opaque Chinese and Russian defense budgets.


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