On a military aircraft high above the Pacific Ocean en route to Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin swore in one of the Biden administration’s leading experts on China as the newest assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security.
For the past six months, Ely Ratner led the department’s China task force, which reviewed where the Pentagon stood in its efforts on Beijing. Austin called it “magnificent piece of work” that fueled future policy plans.
“I’m excited about having Ely firmly in the seat in this position,” Austin said during the ceremony Sunday held at about 9,100 meters (30,000 feet) in a plane traveling at 988 kph (614 mph).
Ratner is a longtime aide to President Joe Biden, according to Politico, serving as a staff member when Biden was in the Senate. From 2015 to 2017, he was deputy national security adviser to then-Vice President Biden after working in the office of Chinese and Mongolian affairs at the State Department.
Ratner was confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, along with five other national security team appointees.
On Austin’s trip, the first to Southeast Asia by a top member of the Biden administration, the secretary will visit Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines. It is Austin’s second trip to the Asia-Pacific region.
He is scheduled to deliver a keynote address on Tuesday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore. He likely will touch on his stated pursuit of a “new vision of integrated deterrence” of Chinese aggression across the region.