Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Opening Statement
Rayburn House Office Building
April 26, 2017
Thank you Chairman Thornberry, Representative Smith and distinguished members. It's an honor for me to appear again before this committee. There are many things to talk about since my last testimony 14 months ago. I do regret that I'm not here with my testimony battle buddy U.S. Forces Command Commander General Vince Brooks, but I think you all agree that he's where he's needed most right now, on the Korean Peninsula.
Unfortunately for all of you that means that my opening statement is going to be just a tad longer.
Thank you Mr. Chairman for your reference to T.R. Fehrenbach's book "This Kind of War", which is on the PACOM reading list…As the PACOM Commander I have the extraordinary privilege of leading approximately 375,000 soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guardsman, airmen and DOD civilians serving our nation around half the globe. These dedicated patriots are really doing an amazing job and thanks to them America remains a security partner of choice in the region.
That's important because I believe that America's future security and economic prosperity are indelibly linked to the Indo-Asian-Pacific region and it's a region that's poised at a strategic nexus where opportunity meets the four challenges of North Korea, China, Russia and ISIS.
It's clear to me that ISIS is a threat that must be destroyed now. The main focus of our coalition's effort is rightfully in the Middle East and North Africa, but as we eliminate ISIS in these areas some of the surviving fighters will likely repatriate to their home countries in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. And what's worse, they'll be radicalized and weaponized. So we must eradicate ISIS before it grows in the PACOM area of responsibility.
Then there's North Korea which remains the most immediate threat to the security of the United States and our allies in the Indo-Asia- Pacific. This week North
Korea threatened Australia with a nuclear strike, a powerful reminder to the entire international community that North Korea's missiles point in every direction.
The only nation to have tested nuclear devices in this century, North Korea has vigorously pursued an aggressive weapons test schedule with more than 60 listed missile events in recent years. With every test, Kim Jong-un moves closer to his stated goal of a preemptive nuclear strike capability against American cities, and he's not afraid to fail in public.
Defending our homeland is my top priority, so I must assumed that the Kim Jong-un's nuclear claims are true; I know his aspirations certainly are. And that should provide all of us a sense of urgency -- urgency to ensure PACOM and U.S. Forces Korea are prepared to fight tonight with the best technology on the planet.
That's why General Brooks and I are doing everything possible to defend the American homeland and our allies in the Republic of Korea and Japan. That's why the ROK-U.S. alliance decided last July to deploy THAAD, that's your terminal high altitude area defense system, which will be operational in the coming days and able to better defend South Korea against the growing North Korea threat. That's why the USS Carl Vinson carrier strike group is back on patrol in Northeast Asia. That's why we must continue to debut America's newest and best military platforms in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. That's why we continue to emphasize trilateral cooperation between Japan, South Korea and the United States; a partnership with a purpose if there ever was one.
And that's why we continue to call on China to exert it's considerable economic influence to stop Pyongyang's unprecedented weapons testing. While recent actions by Beijing are encouraging and welcome, the fact remains that China is as responsible for where North Korea is today as North Korea itself.
In confronting the reckless North Korean regime, it's critical that we're guided by a strong sense of resolve, both privately and publicly, both diplomatically and militarily. As President Trump and Secretary Mattis have made clear, all options are on the table. We want to bring Kim Jong-un to his senses, not to his knees.
We're also challenged in the Indo-Asia-Pacific by an aggressive China and revanchist Russia – neither of whom seem to respect international agreements they've signed on to.
For instance, the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague ruled last year that China's so called nine-dash line claim is illegal under the Law of the Sea Convention. Despite being a signatory to the Convention, China ignored this legally binding peaceful arbitration. In fact, China continues a methodical strategy to control the South China Sea. I testified last year that China was militarizing this critical international waterway and airspace above it by buildings air and naval bases on seven Chinese man-made islands in the disputed Spratlys.
Despite subsequent Chinese assurances that they would not militarize these bases, today they now have facilities that support long-range weapons emplacements, fighter aircraft hangers, radar towers and barracks for troops. China's militarization of South China Sea is real.
I'm also not taking my eyes off Russia, which just last week flew bomber missions near Alaska on successive days for the first time since 2014. Russia continues to modernize its military and exercise its considerable conventional and nuclear forces in the Pacific.
So, despite the region's four significant challenges, since my last report you, we’ve strengthened America's network of alliances and partnerships. Working with like-minded partners on shared security threats like North Korea and ISIS is a key component to our regional strategy. Our five our bilateral defense treaty alliances anchor our joint force efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.
So I continue to rely on Australia for its advanced military capabilities across all domains and its leadership in global operations. As Vice President Pence and Secretary Mattis reaffirmed during recent trips to Northeast Asia, our alliance with South Korea remains steadfast and our alliance with Japan has never been stronger. Even with some turbulence this part year with the Philippines, I am pleased that we are proceeding with the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement and we're looking forward to conducting the Balikatan exercise with our Filipino allies next month. And this past February I visited Thailand to reaffirm our enduring alliance and to communicate that we look forward to Thailand's reemergence as a flourishing democracy.
We've also advanced our partnerships with regional powers like India and Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam and many others. All with a view toward reinforcing the rules-based security order that has helped underwrite peace and prosperity throughout the region for decades.
But there's more work to be done. We must be ready to confront all challenges from a position of strength and with credible combat power. So I ask this committee to support continuing investment to improve our military capabilities. I need weapon systems of increased lethality, precision, speed and range that are networked and cost effective. And restricting ourselves with funding uncertainties reduces warfighting readiness, so I urge the Congress to repeal sequestration and approve the proposed Defense Department budget.
Finally, I'd like to thank the Congress for proposing and supporting the Asia Pacific Stability Initiative. This effort will reassure our regional partners and send a strong signal to potential adversaries of our persistent commitment to the region.
As always, I thank Congress for your enduring support to the men and women of PACOM and to our families who care for us.
Thank you and I look forward to your questions.