SINGAPORE — Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan has said that telecommunications giant Huawei and other Chinese companies are too close to the government, and that poses an unacceptable security risk to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Shanahan was speaking at the first plenary session of the annual Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, where he stressed that “no one nation can — or should — dominate the Indo-Pacific” and that it was in the interests of all nations to work together for a shared future.
He also dismissed suggestions that his speech this year was much of the same as that voiced by previous U.S. speakers at the summit, pointing out that this time there was funding, resources and a plan to back them up.
The South China Sea dispute took a backseat during his speech, with the other troubled aspects of Sino-U.S. relations, such as trade and cybersecurity, receiving more attention. However, Shanahan did address China’s continued construction on and militarization of artificial islands reclaimed from the rocks and reefs in the area, pointing out that the artificial features could become metaphorical “toll booths” and must not become the “toolkit of coercion.”
Shanahan’s speech was, however, less confrontational than had been widely expected in some quarters, rejecting a suggestion during the Q&A portion that there is a “faceoff” between the U.S. and China.
He also reiterated that the competition brought about by China’s rapid rise should be “welcomed and not feared,” saying that the competition does not necessarily mean conflict and is a good thing as long as all parties played by internationally established rules.
U.S. allies and partners who feared they will have to choose sides, as articulated in the summit keynote by Singapore’s prime minister the previous evening, were also allayed by Shanahan, who stressed that the U.S. “does not want any country in this region to have to choose or forgo positive economic relations with other partners.”
Shanahan’s speech coincided with the release of a new Indo-Pacific strategy by the DoD. Shanahan addressed parts of the report in his speech, noting U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is four times larger than the next biggest U.S. combatant command, and emphasizing the $104 billion requested by the DoD for research and development in breakthrough technologies like artificial intelligence and directed energy.
The report itself noted that America’s “unique network of Allies and partners is a force multiplier to achieve peace, deterrence, and interoperable warfighting capability,” and continued to call China a “revisionist power” and Russia a “revitalized malign actor.”
However, the report also appeared to lack specific details about the DoD’s plans or initiatives for the region, instead taking a broader view on what its force posture in the area will look like, as well as how it will affect U.S. partners and allies there.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.