Hong Kong (CNN)US Vice President Mike Pence is set to ramp up Washington’s criticism of Beijing in a speech Thursday, accusing China of “reckless harassment” of US military forces in the South China Sea, and vowing to improve US relations with Taiwan.
Pence’s speech, to be delivered at the Hudson Institute think tank in Washington, comes just days after a Chinese military vessel nearly collided with a US Navy ship in the waters around the disputed Spratly Islands on Sunday.
“Beijing is also trying to project its power farther than ever before,” Pence will say, according to excerpts of his speech seen by CNN. Pence will call attention to an incident on Sunday in which the US said a Chinese naval vessel came within 45 yards (41 meters) of the USS Decatur as it conducted freedom-of-navigation operations in the South China Sea.
Pence will describe the encounter as “reckless harassment,” and add that the United States Navy “will continue to fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows and our national interests demand. We will not be intimidated; we will not stand down.”
According to the excerpts, Pence will also take a forceful line on Taiwan, the self-ruled island which Beijing has long sought to control, saying that “while our administration will continue to respect our One China Policy… Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people.”
Under the “One China Policy,” Washington officially recognized Beijing and removed its embassy from Taiwan, though it continues to regard the sovereignty status of the island as unresolved.
Pence will condemn efforts by Beijing to pressure allies of Taipei to sever their ties and embrace China, which he will say “threaten the stability of the Taiwan Strait.”
Thursday’s strident planned speech comes as the trade war between the US and China continues to escalate, and in week after President Donald Trump accused Beijing of meddling in US politics using state-controlled media.