US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday stepped up recent US rhetoric targeting China's ruling Communist Party, saying Beijing was focused on international domination and needed to be confronted.
Pompeo made the remarks even as the Trump administration said it still expected to sign the first phase of a deal to end a damaging trade war with China next month, despite Chile's withdrawal on Wednesday as the host of an APEC summit where US officials had hoped this would happen.
Pompeo said the United States had long cherished its friendship with the Chinese people, adding the Communist government was not the same thing as the people of China.
"They are reaching for and using methods that have created challenges for the United States and for the world and we collectively, all of us, need to confront these challenges ... head-on," Pompeo said in an address to a gala dinner in New York of the conservative Hudson Institute think tank.
"It is no longer realistic to ignore the fundamental differences between our two systems, and the impact that … the differences in those systems have on American national security."
Last week in a major policy speech, US Vice President Mike Pence attacked China's record on human rights, trade and methods used to expand its global influence
Pompeo said President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election next year, had sounded the alarm about China from his very first day in office.
"Today, we're finally realizing the degree to which the Communist Party is truly hostile to the United States and our values ... and we are able to do this because of the leadership of President Trump."
China has been consistently irritated by Pompeo, whether over his remarks on China's Belt and Road project or allegations of Chinese rights abuses in the far western region of Xinjiang, and in many other areas.
In a speech in Houston on Monday, China's ambassador in Washington signalled his country would not take any criticism of the party, which he said was "deeply trusted and widely supported by the Chinese people".
"To draw a line between the Party and the people is to challenge the entire Chinese nation," Cui Tiankai said, according to a copy of his remarks on the Chinese embassy's website.
"Claiming to welcome a successful China on one hand, and defaming and working to overthrow the very force that leads the Chinese people towards success on the other, have you ever seen anything more hypocritical and outrageous than this?"
"Unfair And Predatory"
Pompeo said he would deliver a series of speeches in coming months on the competing ideologies and values, including on global influence campaigns by the Chinese Communist Party's intelligence agencies and "unfair and predatory" economic practices by Beijing.
"The Chinese Communist Party is a Marxist-Leninist Party focused on a 'struggle' and international domination - we need only listen to the words of their leaders," he said.
Pompeo said he would also address the build-up of China's military capabilities "that far exceed what they would need for self-defence."
Pompeo said the United States was not seeking confrontation with China and wanted to see a transparent, competitive market-driven system there that was mutually beneficial. He said the first steps towards that could be seen in phase one of the trade deal, which was close to being signed.
"I am optimistic that we will get there. It's a good thing, a place that we can work together," he said. "I think this will show that there is common ground to be had."