WASHINGTON — Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said he plans to call out good and bad behaviors among nations in the Indo-Pacific region when he addresses a major defense forum on Saturday.
“This part might be viewed as spicy,” Shanahan told Pentagon reporters on Friday. “There’s parts of this where I think it’s appropriate not to ignore it. So we’ll, we’ll talk about those things but the other parts of the speech really are what are the things that we’ve done to prepare ourselves.”
Shanahan is to address the Shangrai-La Dialogue in Singapore, Saturday morning local time.
He insisted that U.S. efforts in the region, particularly those aimed at curbing Chinese expansions in the South China Sea, are working.
“What we have to be mindful of is trying to just measure, to take one measurement in one small period of time,” he told reporters. “This is something that evolves over time.”
He called into question China’s claim that its militarization of islands and man-made outcroppings in the South China Sea are purely defensive.
“It looks like it’s a bit overkill. I mean surface to air missiles, long runways. I mean seems excessive,” he said.
Shanahan made the comments before he met with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe on Friday He said despite China being identified in the National Defense Strategy as a prime foe he said there are areas of potential cooperation.
“The easiest one in my mind is enforcement of sanctions on North Korea right,” Shanahan said.
Following the 20 minute meeting with Wei, the Pentagon described the meeting in classic diplomatic terms of “a constructive and productive session.
“The two leaders discussed ways to build military-to-military relations that reduce the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculation between our nations. Secretary Shanahan specifically discussed how our militaries can better cooperate to enforce UN Security Council Resolutions related to DPRK sanctions. Acting Secretary Shanahan hopes to build on this evening’s discussion with future engagements,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Buccino, spokesperson for Shanahan.