Shanahan warns an international security conference in Singapore on Saturday that the artificial islands could become tollbooths. While he isn't specifically naming China in parts of his speech, he made clear whom his target was.
He says the U.S. is willing to cooperate with China and welcomes competition, but behavior that erodes other nations' sovereignty and sows distrust of China's intentions must end. He says the U.S. is committed to the region and investing in programs to secure it.
Shanahan told reporters Friday he would use his speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue conference to criticize Beijing's use of coercion to advance its interests.
7:30 p.m. Friday
Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan says he will call out China's bad behavior in a speech Saturday, including what he termed the excessive militarization of manmade islands in the South China Sea.
Shanahan says China's installation of long runways and surface-to-air missiles on the outposts amounts to "overkill" and goes beyond defensive measures.
He spoke to reporters just before meeting with Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe at the Shangri-La Dialogue national security conference.
His remarks underscore America's frayed relations with China, as the Trump administration wages a trade war with Beijing, imposes sanctions on Chinese tech giant Huawei and approves a weapons sale to Taiwan, the self-ruled island the Communist mainland claims as its own territory.
The Pentagon says Shanahan and Wei discussed ways to build better military relations.