Trump defense chief says US won’t ‘tiptoe’ around Chinese behavior in Asia


Acting Pentagon Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Saturday denounced China’s moves in the South China Sea and efforts to steal technology from other countries, saying the U.S. will no longer “tiptoe” around Beijing on a host of issues.

Shanahan went after China while not mentioning the country by name during a speech at a major security summit in Singapore, blasting efforts to militarize man-made outposts in the region and accusing Beijing of destabilizing the area, The Associated Press reported.

“Perhaps the greatest long-term threat to the vital interests of states across this region comes from actors who seek to undermine, rather than uphold, the rules-based international order,” the Defense chief said, according to Reuters.{mosads}

“If the trends in these behaviors continue, artificial features in the global commons could become tollbooths, sovereignty could become the purview of the powerful,” he continued.

Later, in response to a question, Shanahan stated, “We’re not going to ignore Chinese behavior, and I think in the past people have kind of tiptoed around that.”{mosads}

The acting Pentagon chief’s remarks came as the Defense Department on Saturday released its first Indo-Pacific strategy report emphasizing “a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The report calls for a region where “all nations, large and small, are secure in their sovereignty and able to pursue economic growth consistent with accepted international rules, norms, and principles of fair competition.”

“In particular, the People’s Republic of China, under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, seeks to reorder the region to its advantage by leveraging military modernization, influence operations, and predatory economics to coerce other nations,” Shanahan stated in the report.

The document states that the U.S., meanwhile, “supports choices that promote long-term peace and prosperity for all in the Indo-Pacific.”

“We will not accept policies or actions that threaten or undermine the rules-based international order – an order that benefits all nations. We are committed to defending and enhancing these shared values,” the report adds.

Shanahan’s speech Saturday marked his first major international address since taking over as acting Pentagon chief in January and comes amid heightened tensions with China over a range of issues, including security and trade, with the Trump administration locked in a protracted trade battle with Beijing.

A senior Chinese military official responded to Shanahan’s remarks on Saturday, saying U.S. actions on Taiwan and the disputed South China Sea were at odds with efforts to pursue regional peace and security.

“He (Shanahan) has been expressing inaccurate views and repeating old tunes about the issues of Taiwan and the South China Sea,” Shao Yuanming of the People’s Liberation Army told reporters after Shanahan’s speech, according to Reuters. “This is harming regional peace and stability.”

Yuanming emphasized that “China will have to be reunified,” saying that “if anybody wants to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will protect the country’s sovereignty at all costs.”

President Trump last month nominated Shanahan to be the permanent Defense secretary. His Senate confirmation hearings are expected in the coming weeks.

Tags Donald Trump Patrick Shanahan
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