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Defence Secretary James Mattis delivers speech in Singapore. Photo: ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images

Speaking at the annual regional security conference, the Shangri-La Dialogue, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis criticized China's ongoing militarization of the controversial islands in the South China Sea saying that its placement of weapons "is tied directly to military use for the purposes of intimidation and coercion."

Why it matters: Mattis added that China's moves are "in stark contrast to the openness our strategy promotes," and question "China’s broader goals." Mattis’ comment comes on the heels of efforts from the U.S. "to navigate increased tensions with Beijing, even as the Trump administration seeks Chinese help in curbing North Korea’s nuclear ambitions," reports the New York Times.

Timing: The Times adds that "Mattis recently disinvited the Chinese military from a large, multinational naval exercise this summer due in part to China’s positioning of those weapons, including antiship and surface-to-air missiles, on the Spratly Islands."

Go deeper

U.S. economy adds 245,000 jobs in November as rate of recovery slows

Axios Visuals. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The U.S. economy added 245,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate fell to 6.7% from 6.9%, the government said on Friday.

Why it matters: The labor market continues to recover even as coronavirus cases surge— though it's still millions of jobs short of the pre-pandemic level. The problem is that the rate of recovery is slowing significantly.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

1 hour ago - Health

Fauci says he accepted Biden's offer to be chief medical adviser "on the spot"

The government's top infectious-disease expert Anthony Fauci said Friday that he "absolutely" will accept the offer from President-elect Joe Biden to serve as his chief medical adviser, telling NBC's "Today" that he said yes "right on the spot."

Why it matters: President Trump had a contentious relationship with Fauci, who has been forced during the pandemic to correct many of the president's false claims about the coronavirus. Biden, meanwhile, has emphasized the importance of "listening to the scientists" throughout his campaign and transition.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Highlights from Biden and Harris' first joint interview since the election

Joe Biden. Photo: Mark Makela/Gettu Images

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris sat down with CNN on Thursday for their first joint interview since the election.

The big picture: In the hour-long segment, the twosome laid out plans for responding to the pandemic, jump-starting the economy and managing the transition of power, among other priorities.