US will not push allies into 'us-or-them choice' on China: Blinken

The comments from Secretary of State Antony Blinken represent a major shift in US policy from attempts by former leader Donald Trump. PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS (AFP) - The United States sees China as a threat to collective security, but will not force allies to choose between Beijing and Washington, Secretary of State Antony Blinken was set to say on Wednesday (March 24).

"The United States won't force our allies into an 'us-or-them' choice with China," he was to say, according to excerpts of a speech to be delivered at Nato headquarters in Brussels.

The US top diplomat was to tell allies in the keynote speech on his first European visit that "there's no question that China's coercive behaviour threatens our collective security and prosperity".

"But that doesn't mean countries can't work with China where possible. The United States will. We can't afford not to, especially on challenges like climate change and health security," according to the transcript.

Mr Blinken was due to say that Washington wants to work with partners to "close the gaps in areas like technology and infrastructure, which China is exploiting to exert coercive pressure".

"We know that our allies have complex relationships with China that won't always align perfectly with ours. But we need to navigate these challenges together," he was set to say.

The comments from Mr Blinken represent a major shift in US policy from attempts by former leader Donald Trump to strong arm allies into taking a tougher line on Beijing.

President Joe Biden is keen to take a multilateral approach as he looks to enlist Nato allies and partners such as the European Union in a united front of democracies to challenge authoritarian China.

Washington and Brussels took a first step towards joint action against Beijing by unveiling synchronised sanctions on Monday over the crackdown on the Uighurs in China.

But Brussels irritated Mr Biden's team by agreeing on a broad investment deal with Beijing weeks before he took office, despite Washington urging the EU to wait.

Mr Blinken is set to hold talks later on Wednesday with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, a day before Mr Biden joins a video summit of leaders from the bloc.

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