President Trump and his administration have been harsh critics of China. Under their leadership, the United States has pursued an aggressive diplomatic and economic policy toward Beijing. That trajectory continued on Thursday as Vice President Mike Pence spoke at the Hudson Institute, reiterating the threat posed by China. The U.S. also seemed to plan for a display of military force in response to Chinese aggression.

Regardless of how the U.S. chooses to respond to China, including incidents like the “unsafe” encounter between two U.S. and Chinese warships in the South China Sea, it needs allies. Alone, the U.S. would be hard-pressed to apply the political, economic, or even military pressure needed to check Beijing’s advances.

Trump, however, doesn’t quite seem to get this.

Not only did he tout isolationist lines at the United Nations last week, but he has openly questioned U.S. allies including the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, while turning once strong relations with Canada icy.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Trump elected to skip out on important summits that would have included leaders from Japan, Australia, South Korea, New Zealand, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia, among other countries. Several of these countries already face rising pressure from China both in terms of investment dollars and increased political leverage. Some, such as Malaysia, have taken steps to counter Beijing's debt-causing overtures.

With those summits, including the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' summit, and the East Asia Summit, Trump has made his priories clear. He will take a jaunt to Paris for the Armistice Day parade sending Pence in his stead to meet with key leaders. This signals a weak commitment to our allies in Asia and the Pacific.

In missing those meetings, Trump also foregoes key opportunities to show unity against China. For Beijing, that will likely be understood as a further walk back in terms of regional commitment from Washington and a green light for further aggression.

If the White House stands by Pence’s words on Thursday and is sincere in its proposed display of force, those actions would be much more persuasive with the clear support of allies. Without them, China is likely to remain undeterred.