Fox News strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane said Thursday on "The Story" that a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and sharp critic of China was contacted as part of the White House's search for a long-term replacement for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

Patrick Shanahan, a former executive at Boeing, began serving as acting secretary of defense this week.

Webb, a former Virginia senator and a decorated Marine Corps officer, previously served as secretary of the Navy under President Ronald Reagan.

Keane echoed a report from the New York Times that cited three federal officials and a senior Pentagon representative. The Defense official said Webb's name has been floated for some time.

"Pence reached out to him," Keane said, adding that the White House is "probably taking a closer look at his views."

At a 2016 Democratic presidential debate, Webb sternly warned of the "unelected, authoritarian government of China" and its actions in the South China Sea.

Webb, largely viewed as a moderate Democrat with Republican presidential administration credentials under his belt, said that resolving issues with the U.S.-China relationship is the "greatest strategic threat that we have right now."

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Trump similarly has criticized China on an economic and geopolitical level, but maintains he shares a warm relationship with President Xi Jinping.

Keane said Webb would "be able to identify with" Trump on that matter, and is also similarly less hawkish on other international conflicts.

"[China] is absolutely dead seat on dominating the Asia-Pacific region," Keane said, adding that the country is also seeking to displace America economically speaking.

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