New Pentagon chief Shanahan sees China as top priority

New Pentagon chief Shanahan sees China as top priority

New Pentagon chief Shanahan sees China as top priority

During the public portion of the Cabinet meeting, Shanahan touted the Defense Department's role in another priority of Trump's, helping to secure the southern U.S. border.

Shanahan, who took the top spot January 1 after Jim Mattis resigned amid disagreements with President Donald Trump, told key Defense Department staff to focus on the National Defense Strategy, a broad review that highlights a new era of "Great Power competition" with Russian Federation and China.

"I'm not happy with what (Mattis has) done in Afghanistan and I shouldn't be happy", Trump said, as Shanahan sat by his side.

The defence official at Wednesday's Pentagon meeting said Shanahan would attend a cabinet meeting with Trump later in the day, the president's first of 2019.

Trump told Shanahan he was "such a pleasure" to work with and that he had "done a really fantastic job" with regard to the border.

Several candidates long rumored to be interested in the post had indicated in recent days, some publicly, that they did not want to succeed Mattis, who was respected in the Pentagon and enjoyed bipartisan support when he departed on December 31. In the letter, Mattis said he would step down February 28, but Trump later accelerated that to the end of the year.

Among the most immediate issues on his plate will be the pace at which the USA pulls 2,200 or so troops out of Syria, after Trump's decision last month to exit the war-torn country.

Last month, Trump declared victory over the Islamic State group in Syria and claimed the militants had been beaten "badly", even though they still number in the thousands.

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He has also not comment on planning for a dramatic drawdown in Afghanistan.

"In 2019, the National Defence Strategy remains our guide".

Aides say Shanahan, who's leading the Pentagon after the departure of Jim Mattis, struck the China theme at a meeting Wednesday with the department's top civilian leaders, including the heads of the military services.

"While we're focused on ongoing operations, acting Secretary Shanahan told the team to remember China, China, China".

As he started his new job, Shanahan, who previously served as deputy defense secretary, told the Pentagon to focus on the National Defense Strategy, a Mattis-era review that highlights a new era of "Great Power competition" with Russian Federation and China.

The national defence strategy, released by Mattis in January previous year, 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. Before that, he spent more than 30 years at Boeing.

"I have to have confidence that the fox is not going to be put back into the henhouse", said McCain, who died in August.

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