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Pentagon Hosts First Meeting of US-China Task Force

FILE - U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks to Defense Department personnel at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, Feb. 10, 2021..

Top U.S. military and intelligence officials have started looking at how best to confront what they see as the growing threat from a rising China.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hosted the first meeting of the new China Task Force at the Pentagon on Monday, bringing together key military commanders, civilian leaders and members of the intelligence community.

FILE - Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing, Feb. 17, 2021.
FILE - Pentagon spokesman John Kirby speaks during a media briefing, Feb. 17, 2021.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters Austin provided the 20 task force members with some "initial guidance" for what both the White House and Defense Department have described as a "sprint" to make sure Washington is prepared as Beijing continues its efforts to be a dominant power on the world stage.

Monday's meeting "is intended to formalize the mission, timing and outputs of the task force as they work towards a baseline assessment of [the] departments, policies, programs and processes on China-related matters," Kirby said.

He added the task force is expected to complete its work within the next four months but said that most if its findings "will be classified."

U.S. President Joe Biden announced the formation of the China Task Force last month during his first visit to the Pentagon as president.

The goal, Biden said at the time, was to "chart a strong path forward on China-related matters."

During his confirmation hearing in January, Austin told lawmakers China is an "ascending power" and "the most concerning competitor that we're facing."

U.S. officials have consistently raised concerns about what they say is China's industrial espionage, its theft of biomedical information and the potential manipulation of technology, like 5G cellular networks.

There have also been ongoing tensions over Beijing's initial handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which Chinese officials have repeatedly tried to blame on others.