Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) Opening Statement
Dirksen Senate Office Building
April 27, 2017
Thank you, Chairman McCain and Senator Reed and distinguished members. It is an honor for me to appear before this committee.
There are many things to talk about since my last testimony 14 months ago. And I regret that I'm not here with my testimony battle buddy, General Bench Brooks, but I think you'd all agree that he is where he is needed most right now – on the Korean Peninsula.
Mr. Chairman, I request that my written posture statement be submitted for the record.
As a PACOM commander, I have the extraordinary privilege of leading about 375,000 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guardsman and DOD civilians serving our nation over half the globe.
These dedicated patriots are doing an amazing job and, thanks to them, America remains the security partner of choice in the region. That's important because I believe that America's future and economic prosperity are inextricably linked to the Indo-Asia Pacific, a region that's poised at the strategist nexus where opportunity meets the four considerable challenges of North Korea, China, Russia and ISIS.
It's clear to me that ISIS is a threat that must be destroyed now. But as we eliminate ISIS in the Middle East, in North Africa, some of the surviving fighters will likely repatriate to their home countries in the Indo-Asia Pacific. So we must continue to work with like-minded nations to 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 Japan and Korea. North Korea has vigorously pursued a strategic strike capability with nuclear tests and ballistic missile launches, which it claims are intended to target the United States, South Korea, Japan and, just earlier this week, Australia.
Make no mistake; Kim Jong-Un is making progress on his quest for nuclear weapons and a means to deliver them intercontinentally. All nations need to take this threat seriously because North Korea's missiles point in all directions.
North Korea's capabilities are not yet an existential threat to America, but if left unchecked, it will eventually match the capability to hostile rhetoric.
I know that there is some debate about North Korea's intent and militarization advancements made by Pyongyang and I won't add to that speculation. Regardless, my job is to provide military options to the president. And because PACOM must be ready to fight tonight, I must assume that Kim Jong-Un's nuclear claims are true – I know his aspirations certainly are.
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, the terminal high-altitude area defense system, which will be operational in the coming days and able to better defend South Korea against a growing North Korean 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 want to continue to emphasize trilateral cooperation between the United States, South Korea and Japan, a partnership with a purpose, if there ever was one.
And that's why we continue to call on China to exert its considerable influence to stop Pyongyang's unprecedented weapons testing. While recent actions by Beijing are encouraging, the fact remains that China is as responsible for where North Korea is 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 and not to his knees.
We're also challenged in the Indo-Asia Pacific by an aggressive China and a revanchist Russia. China continues a methodical strategy to control the South China Sea. And I testified last year that China was militarizing this critical international waterway and the airspace above it by building air and naval bases on seven Chinese manmade islands in the disputed Spratlys. Despite subsequent Chinese assurances at the highest levels that they would not militarize these bases, today, they have these facilities that support long-range weapons emplacements, fighter aircraft hangars, radar towers and barracks for their troops. China's militarization of the South China Sea is real.
I'm also not taking my eyes off of 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 exercises its considerable conventional and nuclear forces in the Pacific.
So, despite the region's four significant challenges, since my last report to 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 of our regional strategy.
Our five bilateral defense treaty alliances -- Australia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines and Thailand -- anchor our joint-force efforts in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. We've also advanced important partnerships with India and Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand, Singapore and Sri Lanka, and Vietnam, and others, all with a view toward reinforcing the rules-based security order that has helped underwrite peace and stability and prosperity throughout the region for decades. But there's more work to do.
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 continued investment to improve 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 war fighting readiness. So, I urge Congress to repeal sequestration and approve the proposed Defense Department budget.
Finally, I'd like to thank Chairman McCain and this committee 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 the Congress for your enduring support to the men and women of PACOM and to our families who care for us. Thank you very much. And I look forward to your questions.