Pence accuses China of seeking to change USA president

"China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections", Pence told the audience of mostly scholars, echoing claims made by President Donald Trump at the United Nations a week ago implying that China, in addition to Russian Federation, was involved in efforts to undermine American elections.

Pence also said China's navy engaged in "reckless harassment" this week when a Chinese naval vessel came within about 40 meters of a USA ship in the South China Sea.

"To put it bluntly, President Trump's leadership is working, and China wants a different American president", he said.

He criticized China for its militarization of the South China Sea, its trade practices and intellectual property theft, its crackdown on political opposition and religious groups at home and its political interference in the USA and around the world. He said that in response, Beijing is using its power "to interfere in the domestic policies of this country and to interfere in the politics of the United States".

China's Defence Ministry said a Chinese naval ship had been sent to warn the U.S. vessel to leave and that Beijing had irrefutable sovereignty in the area.

In what was billed as a major policy address, Pence sought to build on Trump´s speech at the United Nations last week in which he alleged that China was attempting to interfere in the pivotal November 6 midterm elections.

Citing intelligence, Pence said "China is targeting USA state and local governments and officials to exploit any divisions between federal and local levels on policy".

The White House responded publicly Thursday to a heated confrontation between the Chinese navy and a USA destroyer in the South China Sea this past weekend.

Pence pointed to Trump's tough line on Beijing, particularly Trump's decision to impose $250 billion in tariffs on goods coming from the country. But US officials and independent analysts say they have not detected the kind of systematic manipulation of social media and email hacking Russian Federation was accused of in 2016.

Mr Pence said Chinese security agencies have masterminded the "wholesale theft of American technology", including military blueprints, and warned Washington would continue to take action.

He also urged Google (GOOGL.O) to end development of its "Dragonfly" app that would make it easier to track internet searches and thus strengthen the Chinese Communist Party's censorship efforts.

Mr Pence also said China had deployed anti-ship and anti-air missiles on islands it is building in the disputed South China Sea, despite promises not to militarise them.

In excerpts of his speech seen by reporters, Pence was also to call attention to an incident in which a destroyer, the USS Decatur, traveled within 12 nautical miles (22km) of the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島) on Sunday.

Pence also denounced China's manoeuvres in the South China Sea, its oppression of Christians, Muslims and other religious believers, and Chinese President Xi Jinping's signature infrastructure and foreign policy initiative.

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