Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan traveled Wednesday to Asia on a high-profile weeklong trip intended to focus on issues of the region, hear from allies and partners, and demonstrate that the United States is still a superpower with the capacity and readiness to handle defense situations anywhere in the world. While mitigating the risk of unnecessary engagement, his trip comes as the U.S. deploys thousands of additional troops and military assets to counter Iran in the Middle East and ahead of his expected Senate confirmation hearing.

Shanahan said, “This will be a week just solely dedicated to the issues of the region. But to me, it’s more about the listening and being able to hear from the allies and partners, the kind of nuance that you hear in their voice. The nuance of the issue is for me extremely educational … we have spent the last several years generating readiness … I don’t want to draw on that capacity unnecessarily … I’d prefer that that risk was retired, the situation de-escalates. We’ve stayed focused on ensuring that we minimize the risk of miscalculation … I think the situation remains tense. It’s a high threat environment where we haven’t seen a change in the last few days.”

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The secretary said, “Implementation of the National Defense Strategy is my top priority. China is the priority within the national defense strategy … I do spend quite a bit of time on China—part of our portfolio and the Russian part of the portfolio. This is where I’m extremely disciplined about that part of managing my time and the department’s time. … The situation in the Middle East will consume time and there are other places like North Korea that will consume time.”

While implementing a new national defense strategy that shifts away from just fighting extremist groups to include more attention to China and Russia, the acting secretary demonstrates the discipline necessary to prioritize and simultaneously handle other issues like the North Korean missile launches, the ongoing war in Afghanistan, the battle against ISIS terrorist, and allocating funds for the wall on our southern border. As he prepared for the Asia trip, the acting secretary shuttled back and forth to the White House for meetings with the president discussing topics related to China, our military situation in the Middle East, and how the president clearly does not want war with Iran.

Shanahan said, “When the president says ‘I don”t want a war with Iran,’ I think that is pretty clear. … I don’t think anyone wants a war with Iran. I don’t think you’ll find people in the national security apparatus that wants a war with Iran. Nobody wants war. President very clear. ‘Nobody wants war.’… We can have very candid discussions around intellectual property theft or militarization of the South China Sea.”

Includes reposting from the Associated Press.