US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Thursday for the creation of a "new alliance of democracies" to combat what he said is China's malign intent for the international community. 

Speaking at the Nixon Library in southern California, the top diplomat said that without immediate action the Chinese Communist party (CCP) will "erode our freedoms" and undermine the rules-based international order.

"If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world," he said. "This isn’t about containment. Don't buy that. It’s about a complex new challenge that we’ve never faced before: The USSR was closed off from the free world. Communist China is already within our borders."

The comments mark one of the sharpest escalations yet in the soaring tensions between Washington and Beijing that have escalated dramatically since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has spread to every nation on Earth after it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

The Trump administration accuses China of seeking to cover-up the outbreak early on, and then misleading the international community about its severity as it spread.

Pompeo reiterated the charge, calling on the audience to "Just think how much better off the world would be, not to mention the people inside of China, if we had been able to hear from the doctors in Wuhan, and they had been allowed to raise the alarm about the outbreak of a new and novel virus."

He was likely alluding to Dr. Li Wenliang who was met with fierce backlash by Chinese authorities who accused him of "making false comments" after he attempted to raise the alarm about the virus' severity in December. Li ultimately died from COVID-19 in February after working at Wuhan Central Hospital.

"Today we’re all still wearing masks, and watching the pandemic’s body count rise because the CCP failed in its promises to the world," said Pompeo.

He called for the combined economic, military and diplomatic powers of the UN, NATO, the G7 and the G20 to face China, saying they are "surely enough to meet this challenge if we direct it clearly and with great courage."

"Maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like- minded nations, a new alliance of democracies," he said. "If the free world doesn’t change Communist China will surely change us. We can't return to the past practices because they're comfortable or because they're convenient."

"Securing our freedoms from the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time and America is perfectly positioned to lead it because our founding principles give us that opportunity."