Shanahan: US military to focus on China

Erika Holt
January 7, 2019

"It is an honour to work with such a dedicated team committed to the greatness of our nation", he had said.

The meeting was the first of its kind for Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan, who started his new job January 1 following the resignation of his predecessor Jim Mattis.

At a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Trump said Mattis "couldn't believe" how much federal money Trump had helped secure for the military.

Trump suggested that Shanahan, who took over as acting defense secretary when Mattis ended his tenure Monday, agrees with him on this.

In fact, Mattis tendered his resignation in response to Trump's announcement that he would withdraw all 2,000 US troops deployed to Syria within the next several months.

United States media say he held a meeting with Pentagon officials the following day, in which he said he would stick with current defense strategies focusing on China and Russian Federation. Although Trump has declared victory there, critics warn Islamic State still has a toehold in Syria and could stage a comeback if U.S. forces depart. The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not elaborate on Shanahan's views on China or what other guidance he gave during the meeting. The 2018 National Defense Strategy, which Shanahan helped develop, branded China as a strategic competitor.

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The national defence strategy, released by Mattis in January a year ago, describes China as "a strategic competitor" that "will continue to pursue a military modernisation program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near term and displacement of the United States to achieve global pre-eminence in the future".

Relations between the world's two largest economies have plumbed new depths under Trump, with a trade war and disagreements over Taiwan and the South China Sea.

Patrick Shanahan, the acting U.S. defence secretary, singled out China as a key priority in a "great power competition" on his first full day in his new role at the Pentagon on Wednesday, continuing a course set by his predecessor.

Lieutenant Colonel Joe Buccino, Shanahan's spokesman, said he had recused himself from any matters involving Boeing.

As acting secretary, Shanahan, 56, has all the authority of a permanent secretary. He also announced that Pentagon Comptroller David Norquist would take on his former duties as Deputy Defense Secretary.

Shanahan, who had served as deputy to Mattis since July 2017, is a career business executive with no prior government or military experience.

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