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Acting US Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan (L) attends the opening of the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue summit in Singapore on May 31, 2019. Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP/Getty Images

Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan had harsh criticisms on Saturday for China's alleged efforts to take technology from other countries and militarize posts in the South China Sea — mixed in with some warnings about the dangers of North Korea, reports the AP.

The big picture: The strong remarks from Shanahan come at a time of tension with China as a result of sanctions imposed by President Trump and an arms deal with Taiwan, per AP. It also highlights that defense leadership is focusing on the great power competition with China and Russia.

  • At the Shangri-La Dialogue conference, Shanhan claimed the U.S. is prepared to invest billions of dollars in securing stability in the Indo-Pacific region, per AP.
  • It was Shanahan's first major speech on an international stage, and could ultimately serve as an "audition" for the acting secretary. Trump still hasn't submitted a formal nomination for Shanahan.

What he's saying: He homed in on the relationship between telecommunications giant Huawei and the Chinese government because of laws requiring the company share data with the government, per AP. Shanahan also wants complete denuclearization of North Korea, and says the nation may be getting to a point where they could possibly strike American allies.

"I won't apologize for the way I framed some of my remarks, but we're not going to ignore Chinese behavior. I think in the past people have kind of tiptoed around that. It's not about being confrontational, it's about being open and having a dialogue."
— Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan

The other side: Lt. Gen. Shao Yuanming, a senior Chinese officer, said he's open to stronger communication between the U.S. and China. However, he's concerned about the force of the comments from Shanahan on U.S. relations with Taiwan, and said China has strong claim to the South China Sea, per AP.

  • On Friday, China said it is preparing a list of "unreliable" foreign companies, organizations and individuals for targeting — which could be retaliation for U.S. sanctions against Huawei, according to AP.

Go deeper: China is ready to fight this trade war

Go deeper

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.

Updated 4 hours ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

7 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.