Trump’s pick for de­fense sec­re­tary called wor­ri­some

China Daily (Canada) - - TOP NEWS - By ZHANG ZHIHAO zhangzhi­hao@ chi­

US pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s choice of James Mat­tis, a re­tired gen­eral with a rep­u­ta­tion as a hard-liner, as sec­re­tary of de­fense might lead to more un­cer­tainty and con­fronta­tion in China-US mil­i­tary ties, Chi­nese ex­perts said.

Trump has of­fi­cially nom­i­nated the for­mer four-star Ma­rine Corps gen­eral as head of the Pen­tagon, mak­ing him the first gen­eral to run the Pen­tagon since Ge­orge Mar­shall in 1950.

Mat­tis adds another staunch con­ser­va­tive to Trump’s list of Cabi­net nom­i­nees and high­level ad­vis­ers, in­clud­ing Jeff Ses­sions as at­tor­ney gen­eral, Michael Flynn as na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser and Mike Pom­peo as CIA di­rec­tor.

Mat­tis has been crit­i­cal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s se­cu­rity poli­cies to­ward China, ac­cord­ing to his tes­ti­mony be­fore the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in 2015.

“While our ef­forts in the Pa­cific to keep pos­i­tive re­la­tions with China are well and good, these ef­forts must be par­al­leled by a pol­icy to build the coun­ter­bal­ance if China con­tin­ues to ex­pand its bul­ly­ing role in the South China Sea and else­where,” Mat­tis said, adding that the US should build­more­naval power and war­ships.

By law, how­ever, the Pen­tagon chief needs to be re­tired from ac­tive ser­vice for at least seven years, a mea­sure meant to en­sure civil­ian con­trol of the mil­i­tary. Mat­tis re­tired in 2013, so he would need a spe­cial wavier from Congress, which is likely to be granted with Repub­li­cans con­trol­ling the Congress and Mar­shall set­ting a prece­dent.

Trump is “run­ning the United States like a com­pany”, build­ing a Cabi­net full of loyal con­ser­va­tives “ca­pa­ble of push­ing a US-cen­tered agenda against the in­ter­ests of other na­tions,” said Teng Jian­qun, the di­rec­tor of US stud­ies at the China In­sti­tute of In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies.

Since Trump has not been in­au­gu­rated yet, he might take ad­van­tage of this “safe pe­riod” to keep push­ing China and break­ing tra­di­tions with­out a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal back­lash, Teng said. China must take Trump’s in­com­ing ad­min­is­tra­tion more se­ri­ously and be pre­pared for any­thing, Teng added.

Ma Gang, a pro­fes­sor from the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army Na­tional De­fense Uni­ver­sity, called Mat­tis a man with brawn and brain, but who also is fa­mous for hold­ing decade­long grudges against Iran and other US ad­ver­saries. His ap­point­ment as the US mil­i­tary’s sec­ond in com­mand may lead to more friction with China, Ma said.

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