‘China, China, China’: New Pentagon chief sets priority

Senator Jim Webb leaves after a news conference in Washington

Senator Jim Webb leaves after a news conference in Washingt

Shanahan sat next to Trump during a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Mattis had strongly held beliefs about maintaining and respecting allies, which he cited in his resignation letter to Trump.

The commander in chief said audits of Pentagon war spending must be "private" - an apparent reference to reports produced by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.

But Mr. Shanahan sat quietly later as Mr. Trump belittled key USA allies as freeloaders and laid into Mr. Mattis, who officially resigned December 31, during a subsequent Q&A session with reporters.

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Trump similarly has criticized China on an economic and geopolitical level, but maintains he shares a warm relationship with President Xi Jinping. However, as Mattis' brutal letter made clear he was leaving of his own accord because Trump's worldview is so discordant with his own.

"I don't want to be in Syria", Trump said on Wednesday, while adding that "I never said we're getting out tomorrow".

On his first day as acting defense secretary, Pat Shanahan is emphasizing that China should be the Pentagon's main focus.

As acting secretary of defense, I now look forward to working with President Trump to carry out his vision alongside strong leaders including the service secretaries, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, and senior personnel in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The former Marine Corps general was one of several national security aides who had persuaded Trump that an ongoing military presence there was critical to defeating the Islamic State and other US security interests.

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"We have some great allies, but a lot of our allies were taking advantage of our taxpayers and our country", Trump said. Like the Obama administration, Trump's government is concerned by what it calls China's militarization of disputed areas in the South China Sea and by its advances in certain high-tech weaponry. Shanahan had worked for Boeing for 31 years, including in positions overseeing big defense programs.

David Norquist, the Pentagon's comptroller, will perform the duties of the deputy as well as retain his current title.

Shanahan, a native of Washington state, holds a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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