U.S. President Donald Trump has unveiled a new U.S. national security strategy that takes a hard line on China and Russia, but he said Washington would seek a "great partnership" with the two "rival" powers while defending its national interests.
In a wide-ranging speech in Washington on December 18 shortly after the White House released the strategy document, Trump said "realism" and "America first" would be the guiding national security principles going forward and sharply criticized the record of his predecessors on a broad range of issues, including counterterrorism, Iran, and North Korea
He repeated his harsh assessment of the deal between Iran and major world powers to curb Tehran's nuclear ambitions in exchange for some sanctions relief, as well as the 2015 Paris climate accord that the Trump administration has announced it will withdraw from.
Trump also praised the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria and said that Pakistan must be more decisive in battling extremism.
The new U.S. national security strategy warns that China and Russia "challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security, and prosperity."
"They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence," the strategy statement says.
Trump said that the 68-page strategy document "recognizes that, whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition," adding that "vigorous military, economic, and political contests are now playing out all around the world."
"We face rogue regimes that threaten the United States and our allies. We face terrorist organizations, transnational criminal networks, and others who spread violence and evil around the globe," he said.
Calling Russia and China "rival powers" who "seek to challenge American influence, values, and wealth," Trump said that the United States will nonetheless seek to partner with those and other nations but in a way that "always protects our national interest."
He followed up on that remark by touting bilateral cooperation with Moscow that both the Kremlin and the White House said helped prevent a series of planned terrorist attacks in St. Petersburg.
Russian President Vladimir Putin a day earlier phoned Trump and thanked him for a tip-off from the CIA that the Russian leader said resulted in the arrests of seven suspected terrorists plotting to carry out bombings in Russia's second city.
"Many people -- perhaps in the thousands -- could have been killed. They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life, and that's a great thing, and the way it's supposed to work,” Trump said.
The new U.S. security strategy comes as Washington's relations with Russia have been driven to a post-Cold War low by disagreements over issues including Russia's aggression in Ukraine, its role in the war in Syria, and its alleged interference in the U.S. presidential election in 2016.
China's official news agency said that labeling Beijing as a "rival" was a "victory for hard-liners" within the Trump administration and "reflects Washington's reluctance to accept the reality of China's rise."
The Xinhua News Agency warned that China's relationship with the United States faces "more pressure and challenges" as a result of the report.
The document also states that "the dictatorships" of North Korea and Iran "are determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalize their own people" and warns that transnational "jihadist terrorists" and criminal groups are "actively trying to harm Americans."
Trump said in his speech that the United States has "no choice" but to deal with the challenge presented by North Korea's nuclear and ballistic-missile programs and portrayed additional sanctions he slapped on Iran earlier this year as a strong message to Tehran.
'Crises Of Confidence'
The security strategy is a formal document that each U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has produced, usually every four years.
Since taking office in January, Trump has accused China of unfair trade practices, criticized the "militarization" of the disputed South China Sea, and asked Beijing to do more to pressure North Korea over its nuclear and ballistic-missile programs.
Ahead of the strategy's release, the Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed hope that the document would "play a constructive role to promote world peace and stability and contribute to Chinese-U.S. strategic mutual trust in ensuring world peace and security."
In a speech on December 12, Trump's national security adviser, H.R. 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 claimed that Russia "does not indulge in sophisticated subversion in the United States."
With reporting by Reuters, The Hong Kong Standard, The Los Angeles Times, Bloomberg, and NBC, Financial Times, AFP, and AP