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Shanahan: U.S. will no longer "tiptoe" around China

Acting Sec. of Defense Patrick Shanahan at the Shangri-La Conference
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