Christopher Miller, a former Special Forces officer and head of the US’ National Counterterrorism Center, took the role yesterday. It follows the sudden departure of Mark Esper, the former Defence Secretary with whom President Donald Trump is known to have had disagreements in the past.
Mr Trump announced Mr Esper’s departure in a tweet, saying he had been “terminated”.
The president said: “I am pleased to announce that Christopher C. Miller, the higher respected Director of the National Counterterrorism Center (unanimously confirmed by the Senate), will be Acting Secretary of Defence, effective immediately.
“Chris will do a great job! Mark Esper has been terminated. I would like to thank him for his service.”
Christopher Miller, the US’ new defence secretary
Now, military analysts have said officials in China are concerned Mr Miller’s appointment could result in a tougher US stance on Beijing.
Beijing-based expert Zhou Chenming has said Mr Esper was “stable” in his role, but that China is now worried about “possible military adventures”.
He told the South China Morning Post Mr Miller “specialises in surprise attacks and adventure operations”.
Mark Esper, the US’ former Secretary of Defence, was let go this week
Li Haidong, a professor at the Institute of International Relations of the China Foreign Affairs University, said Mr Esper’s dismissal could also signal Mr Trump’s unwillingness to concede the election in his remaining weeks in office.
He told Chinese state news outlet the Global Times: “We cannot rule out the possibility that in his remaining 70 days Trump will forcefully and rudely refuse to leave the White House.”
The outlet also claimed an anonymous military analyst said Mr Miller’s appointment would bring about a “replacement of US basic policy,” without elaborating further.
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Xi Jinping, president of China. Beijing and US officials met last month to discuss tensions between the two nations
Mr Trump and Mr Esper have been at odds this year, with the former Pentagon chief having opposed Mr Trump’s threats to deploy active military troops in order to suppress nationwide protests in the US earlier this year.
Mr Miller arrived at the Pentagon on Monday this week, where he is said to have met with senior officials and issued guidance.
However, he also added staff should not expect “significant changes at this time,” a senior defence official reportedly told CNN.
Taiwan military troops – The US recently began a month-long exercise with Taiwan’s military
US-China relations have been turbulent this year amid military tensions in the South China Sea and its relationship with Taiwan.
Last month, officials from Washington and Beijing met via teleconference to discuss tensions in what was the first meeting of the Crisis Communications Working Group.
Donald Trump (L) and Mark Esper (R) have had disagreements in the past
The Pentagon said in a statement: “The two sides agreed on the importance of establishing mechanisms for timely communication during a crisis, as well as the need to maintain regular communication channels to prevent crisis and conduct post-crisis assessment.”
Recently, US marines began a month-long training exercise with Taiwan’s military. Taiwan’s Navy Command said the “routine” exchange would “improve the combat capabilities of Taiwanese troops”.