Adm. Harry Harris
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command
Hawaii Military Affairs Council (MAC) Annual Partnership Conference
Washington Place, Honolulu, HI
January 12, 2018
As Prepared for Delivery
Thanks, Jeff (Remington), for that nice introduction. Before getting started, let me take a moment to acknowledge:
- Governor Ige;
- State and local government leaders;
- Mr. Carey and members of the Military Affairs Council;
- Ms. Menor-McNamara, the Chamber of Commerce, and Hawaii’s business leaders;
- Fellow flag and general officers, past and present;
- Distinguished guests…ladies and gentlemen;
Good afternoon! You know, a good speech should be like a comet – dazzling, eye-opening, and over before you know it. I don’t know how well I'll do on the first two, so I’ll try to achieve the third.
I'm truly honored to join this accomplished group of leaders here today. This conference reminds those of us in uniform how important it is to be supported by organizations such as the Military Affairs Council.
Day in and day out, the MAC tirelessly communicates how the military in Hawaii directly supports our national security strategy, to include the President’s focus on protecting the homeland, promoting American prosperity, advancing American influence, and preserving peace through strength.
And due to the outstanding communications conducted by Governor Ige, Mayor Caldwell, Senators Schatz and Hirono, Representatives Gabbard and Hanabusa, and all of our local state officials, decision makers in Washington and throughout the region are well aware that Hawaii remains the gateway to the Indo-Pacific.
Today, Hawaii plays a key role in advancing our national interests across every aspect of national influence. And clearly the legacy of past leaders has put Hawaii on solid footing… but this torch has been passed to you – to us – to do even more in the future.
U.S. economic prosperity and security are indelibly linked to the Indo-Pacific. But it’s not enough to hew solely to a defense-centered view; it’s a whole-of-government effort, including diplomatic, economic, business, industry, and security. So it’s crucial that we continue to work together to maintain this great state’s great strategic relevance because, in so doing, we'll help maintain our great Nation’s leadership role in this region – and, indeed, throughout the world.
To this end, the MAC continues to impress and I applaud your efforts to re-organize, build new alliances and centers of influence, and further leverage the vast talent of Hawaii in new and innovative ways.
You’ve set a great foundation for your military to operate, and I know that leaders like you will continue to support our national interests as you work to protect and preserve the military’s presence here in Hawaii.
Of course, our military forces also play a significant role in achieving national objectives, and while we start from a strong foundation, we must adapt to changing times as well.
Currently, our opportunities in the Indo-Pacific are abundant, but the path is burdened by several considerable challenges, including China, ISIS, and North Korea.
Here, we see an increasingly assertive China. Some view China’s actions in the East and South China Seas as opportunistic. I do not. I view them as coordinated, methodical, and strategic. Beijing has choices to make: they can choose to disregard the rules-based international order or they can contribute to it as a responsible stakeholder. Their actions – not ours – will tell us what kind of nation they'll be for the 21st Century.
ISIS is here in the Indo-Pacific... and a clear threat that must be defeated. The main geographic focus of our coalition's military effort – and rightfully so– is in the Middle East and North Africa. But as we succeed in degrading ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, radicalized, weaponized, and displaced terrorists will seek new footholds in the region.
Sadly, we’ve seen this come to fruition last year in the Southern Philippines in the embattled city of Marawi, where the media has reported that over 1,000 people were killed and 350,000 displaced in a existential struggle that left the city in ruins. But the Armed Forces of the Philippines prevailed, and I'm proud of the small part that PACOM played in helping our Philippine allies. You should be, too. Today, Marawi is a wake-up call and a rallying cry for every nation in the Indo-Pacific as foreign fighters are passing their ideology, resources and methods to local, home-grown, next-generation radicals. So we must stop ISIS at the front end, and not at the back end when the threat can become even more dangerous.
Now let me talk about the most immediate challenge that I know is on the minds of many of you in this room today … and that’s North Korea. In only six years, Kim Jong-Un has launched more missiles than his father and grandfather combined, and he is actively exploring ways to expand their reach.
As the world witnessed in November, North Korea has made significant advancements in their ballistic missile program with the launch of its most powerful missile to date. In response, Secretary of Defense Mattis expressed great concern over the technological advances on display in the 53-minute flight that went higher than any previous launch, stating that Pyongyang now threatens “everywhere in the world.”
Just days later, here in Hawaii… nuclear attack sirens wailed for the first time since the Cold War, in a new test of the emergency alert system. While the possibility of a nuclear strike is slim, we now live in a world where we must be prepared for every contingency.
Today, North Korea stands out as the only nation in this century to have tested nuclear weapons, and Kim Jong-Un is actively pursuing ballistic missile technology that will allow him to deliver a nuclear warhead.
Linking these two capabilities, in the hands of a volatile leader, is a recipe for disaster. President Trump echoed this sentiment during his 12-day trip to Asia, stating that the international community cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens the world with nuclear devastation.
So what is the way ahead? Well, Secretary of State Tillerson and Secretary of Defense Mattis have clearly stated that diplomacy is our main battery. Joined by many in the international community, the United States is applying diplomatic and economic pressure on North Korea to achieve the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and a dismantling of the regime's ballistic missile programs.
While diplomacy is our preferred means of changing North Korea's course of action, it is diplomacy backed by credible military power that matters. My job as a military commander is to ensure the Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific is both credible and ready to defend America, our interests, and our allies in this region.
Many people have talked about military options being unimaginable regarding North Korea. Folks… I must imagine the unimaginable. And what is unimaginable to me are North Korean nuclear-tipped missiles delivered here in Honolulu, or in Los Angeles, or in New York or Washington, D.C.
So I’ll continue to provide military options to President Trump and Secretary Mattis while doing everything possible to emphasize our desire for the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Ladies and gentlemen, we live in a time of persistent conflict, and these security challenges threaten to destabilize the region and reverse the trends of transparency and prosperity we’ve all enjoyed for over 70 years. Your United States Pacific Command recognizes the global significance of the Indo-Pacific and we understand that challenges are best met together – and Hawaii plays a critical role.
As I’ve said before, Hawaii is the only place in the world where all of the component commanders – those service military Flags and General Officers assigned to a Combatant Commander – are geographically co-located together. Because all of PACOM’s components are here in Hawaii, I'm able to meet with them face-to-face every week and our staffs are able to work closely as a joint force.
We also have world class engines of strategic thought here – the University of Hawaii, the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Strategic Studies, the East-West Center, and the C.S.I.S. Pacific Forum.
And we have elite training ranges here as well – Oahu’s Jungle Training Center, Kauai’s Pacific Missile Range and Undersea Training Facility, and Hawaii’s Pohakuloa training facility.
This gives us an extraordinary advantage, and it wouldn’t be possible without the continued dedication and support from Hawaii’s community, civic, and industry leadership.
Our partnership with you is based on shared values and shared concerns. Through collaboration and cooperation, we are advancing national interests and contributing to a stronger, more resilient security architecture.
Global security challenges require global solutions. So as stakeholders for peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific, we must all work together – on every level – to strengthen civil and military relationships with each other. And the time to act is now.
Alright folks, I’ve been up here awhile. A keynote speaker is all-too-often someone who is supposed to offer a few words but doesn’t know when to stop. I know when to stop. So let me conclude with a thought on how blessed we are as a nation – where we have the freedom to participate in open conferences like this, discuss important issues… then take action.
Our nation has always been blessed with strong men and women with exceptional courage who are willing and able to defend America whenever our liberty is in jeopardy. Our nation has been blessed to have innovative industries that provide the best equipment and technology that enable defenders to get the job done. And our nation is richly blessed to have informed and supportive citizens – people like you – who are aware of the challenges, the opportunities, and the dangers we face here in this region and around the world. You play an important part in shaping our nation’s future, as you develop new centers of influence, here in Hawaii, so that your joint military forces can remain strong.
As President Eisenhower once noted: “Only alert and knowledgeable citizens can ensure the responsible use of power … so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
The people of Hawaii – the Aloha State – epitomize President Eisenhower’s “alert and knowledgeable citizenry,” and I thank you for being such wonderful hosts to our 50,000 service members stationed here.
Hawaii continues to play a key role in the defense of our Nation, and is truly the gateway to the Indo-Pacific. Those of us in uniform are grateful for patriots like you – who support us, who support our families when we are deployed, who help make us what we are today: the world’s greatest force for stability and peace on the face of the Earth.
I look forward to continuing conversations of how we can deepen our partnerships as we all work together to keep this region secure, prosperous, and peaceful.
May God bless our men and women who wear the cloth of our nation. May God bless the great State of Hawaii, and may God bless the United States of America.
Thank you very much.