Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)
The DPRK prioritizes regime security above all else and views its strategic weapons programs and vast conventional military force as keys to deterring external aggression and invasion. Pyongyang's forces pose a threat to United States and Republic of Korea (ROK) forces on the peninsula, to Japan, and across the Indo-Pacific. Its investment in ballistic missiles, nuclear technologies, and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD), are in direct violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and consistent with the regime's goal of achieving strategic deterrence. Underscoring this point is DPRK leader Kim Jong Un's December 2022 call for an exponential increase in the country's nuclear arsenal and mass production of tactical nuclear weapons. In September 2022, the DPRK passed a law reaffirming its self-proclaimed status as a nuclear power and establishing conditions for nuclear use and rejecting de-nuclearization.
The DPRK is prioritizing upgrades to its nuclear and other WMD programs as well as its conventional military capabilities. The majority of Pyongyang's modernization efforts focuses on its WMD forces, underscored by an unprecedented number of missile tests in 2022. The DPRK is increasing its missile inventory and is testing new, more advanced ballistic and cruise missile systems capable of launching from diverse platforms, including sea-based and rail-launched systems. In 2022, the regime conducted a test flight of the Hwasong-17 ICBM, which it claimed demonstrated the capability to strike the entire continental United States with nuclear weapons. The DPRK is also testing a series of increasingly capable short range missiles that Pyongyang claims are capable of delivering tactical nuclear warheads. Kim Jong Un appears ready to conduct the first nuclear test since 2017.
The DPRK's modernization of its conventional forces is muted in comparison to its WMD force developments. The naval modernization program is pursuing submarine- launched ballistic missile technology. The DPRK is upgrading some air defense systems and is pursuing unmanned aerial vehicles for military missions. Modest upgrades to DPRK ground forces include tanks and artillery pieces that made appearances in parades since 2020.
The DPRK continues to advance aggressive cyber programs as a low risk, cost effective tool to influence and intimidate adversaries. Pyongyang also uses cyber programs to steal intellectual property and generate revenue, which includes the theft of crypto assets that helps finance weapons research and development.
The DPRK conducted over 70 ballistic and cruise missile launches in 2022, more than tripling the amount in any previous year, including an IRBM that overflew Japan. 2022 marked the DPRK's first ICBM launch since 2017. The DPRK launched a Hwasong- 17 ICBM at a deliberately steep angle making it difficult to analyze its true capability. Finally, the DPRK tested a solid-fuel-powered rocket engine that, if effective, would allow the DPRK to transport and launch missiles faster than current liquid fuel-powered variants.
Over the last year, the DPRK increased its threatening rhetoric and took steps to expand and improve its nuclear capabilities. In September, Pyongyang codified its nuclear use policy stating its nuclear forces have a deterrence and a wartime-use mission. Pyongyang also carried out what it termed "tactical nuclear warhead" training and "ballistic missile launching drills" in support of the regime's goals to operationalize its nuclear weapons program.
In 2022, the regime reconstituted its nuclear test site at Punggye for potential future use. Additionally, an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report highlighted indications of ongoing operations at the DPRK’s plutonium enrichment facility, which produces fissile material that could be used in nuclear weapons.
Support to Russia
North Korea is using Russia’s war against Ukraine war to strengthen its relations with Russia. In addition to its vote against the UN General Assembly's resolution demanding Russia's withdrawal and its recognition of Russian's illegal referendum of Ukrainian provinces in the Donbas region, the DPRK has supplied Russia with a significant amount of ammunition.
The DPRK continues to evade U.N. imposed sanctions intended to curtail funding for its nuclear and other WMD and ballistic missile programs. A U.N. Panel of Experts found continued sanctions evasion by entities, networks, and vessels that persistently fund these programs in defiance of UN Security Council Resolutions.
Violent Extremist Organizations (VEOs)
Transnational and ethno-nationalist violent extremist organizations continue to pose a threat to safety and stability across the Indo-Pacific region. We continue to defend the United States and our many regional allies and partners from this destabilizing threat. Additionally, we monitor the potential return of foreign fighters from distant conflicts, and seek ways to prevent violent extremists from planning and executing violent attacks.
Implementing Seize the Initiative
Seize the Initiative is USINDOPACOM's approach to defend the nation and deter conflict. If deterrence fails, this approach ensures our forces are prepared to fight and win. Seize the Initiative consists of a distributed force posture that facilitates a campaign of joint and combined operations utilizing advanced warfighting capabilities with an enhanced network of allies and partners.
Distributed Force Posture
Forward-based and rotational joint forces armed with lethal capabilities demonstrate resolve, support the security of our allies and partners, and provide the Secretary and President with multiple options if required. Definitive access, basing, and overflight (ABO) arrangements enable the joint force, improve interoperability with host- nations, and position capabilities forward in the event of a crisis. A widespread and distributed force posture west of the IDL gives us the ability to more easily exercise and operate with our partners, increases survivability, reduces risk, and sustains the force with a network of stores, munitions, and fuel to support operations in a contested environment.
USINDOPACOM is pursuing operating locations, both permanent and rotational, across "clusters" throughout the Indo-Pacific. Funding provided by the Congress in 2023 and the requests in the President's Budget Request (PBR) for 2024 will allow USINDOPACOM to continue the necessary planning and implementation efforts to disperse the joint force, enhance interoperability, and build capacity with allies and partners. The classified 1254 Report describes and prioritizes the specific locations and capabilities at each location.
The Guam Cluster
As the most-forward U.S. territories in the Pacific, Guam and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) are critical to U.S. regional security in the theater. The Department, along with the Government of Japan, has committed more than $7Bn for military construction and family housing projects on Guam in FY22-FY28 to meet our commitment with Japan under the Defense Policy Review Initiative (DPRI). This investment in Guam, which is home to 170,000 American citizens, highlights the importance of the island for sustaining the joint force as a main operating base.
Several upcoming key posture projects in Guam and the CNMI will require historic levels of military construction. While Guam has the third highest construction workforce per capita nationally, current military construction demands require a workforce more than three times as large as what currently exists in Guam. Anticipated levels of future military construction will further exacerbate consistent labor shortages that have already left private construction projects unable to meet their baseline needs. The Department requires relief from the H-2B visa restrictions through at least 2029 to be able to provide the workforce required for our construction needs. A longer-term extension, beyond the current date of December 31, 2024, helps meet the Department's requirements and deliver critical military construction projects on time.
To execute our command and control responsibilities, USINDOPACOM has requested support for Joint Task Force (JTF) Micronesia forward stationed in Guam. The JTF's area of responsibility will be the Guam cluster, which includes U.S. Territories (Guam, CNMI, Wake Island, and Midway Island) and the Freely Associated States (FAS), which consist of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Republic of Palau, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).
The Japan Cluster
The United States is working to strengthen our alliance and optimize our force posture with Japan through the forward-deployment of more versatile, resilient, and mobile capabilities. An optimized U.S. posture in Japan, alongside enhanced Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) in areas including Japan's Southwest Islands, will substantially strengthen deterrence and response capabilities. The United States deployed MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft to the Kanoya Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Base, and we will establish the Composite Watercraft Company at Yokohama North Dock this year. We are also working closely with Japan to expand joint/shared use of U.S. and Japanese facilities and are increasing bilateral exercises and training.
The Philippines Cluster
We have made significant progress to improve interoperability of U.S. and Philippines forces through utilization and expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA). EDCA permits the United States to build infrastructure and preposition equipment at agreed upon locations. Under EDCA, U.S. infrastructure investments help meet our alliance requirements, fill short-term Armed Forces Philippines (AFP) capability gaps, support long-term AFP modernization, and better position the Department of Defense to respond to Humanitarian Assistance / Disaster Relief (HA/DR) events. In February 2023, our governments announced the addition of four future AFP sites as EDCA agreed locations, bringing the total to nine sites and ~$82 million in US investments to date.
The Australia Cluster
The United States and Australia have agreed to continue the U.S. rotational presence across air, land, and maritime domains, including U.S. Bomber Task Force rotations. Leaders identified priority locations in Australia to support enhanced U.S. force posture to enable our combined exercises and presence. Assessments are underway for the potential use of various Australian locations for logistics, increasing the prepositioning of munitions and fuel. The 1254 Independent Assessment identifies several significant posture initiatives in Papua New Guinea (PNG), where negotiations on a bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement are underway.
Campaign of Joint and Combined Operations
Campaigning involves persistent and synchronized joint operations in tandem with our allies and partners, linked over time and space, to build warfighting advantage and deter our security challengers. Persistent day to day joint operations aligned with our combined exercises are critical to our ability to deter conflict. Campaigning normalizes our operations throughout the AOR, delivers interoperable and confident warfighting partners and gives us the ability to rehearse warfighting concepts together. In 2022, key highlights included ground forces operating in Northern Luzon and Japan's Southwest Island, the Rim of the Pacific Exercise (RIMPAC), and a new 14 nation combined exercise initiated by Indonesia titled Super Garuda Shield.
Exercise, Experimentation, and Training
Joint, all-domain exercises demonstrate combat credibility by bolstering the joint force's interoperability with our allies and partners and deliver warfighting proficiency. USINDOPACOM's robust exercise program demonstrates our commitment to defending the rules-based international order, facilitates capability development, and builds relationships across the region with our partners. USINDOPACOM seeks to further expand multilateral participation in our exercise program, and train in contested, all- domain environments. These desired effects require continued investment in the Joint Training Exercise and Evaluation Program (JTEEP).
USINDOPACOM is facilitating experimentation with advanced concepts and technologies to deliver warfighting outcomes at speed. This requires the ability to conduct high-end, multi-domain experimentation events in a continuous campaign. A real world environment enables proper evaluation of promising technologies for potential implementation in the near term.
High-end training is an advantage for U.S. forces and our allies and partners. To maximize our training effectiveness, we are linking our ranges across all domains via a federation of interconnected live, virtual, and constructive effects, simulation centers, and mobile training support systems with the Pacific Multi-Domain Test and Experimentation Capability (PMTEC). PMTEC provides the combatant commander the capability to train joint and combined forces forward in theater at the highest levels. This initiative creates the largest coalition range complex in the world with the most advanced capabilities to support operational rehearsals and deliver integrated deterrence
.Advanced Warfighting Capabilities
The joint force currently enjoys the ability to deliver effects throughout the AOR, but we must continue to maintain and expand this advantage with new technologies across all domains. Maintaining our joint warfighting advantages will deter conflict and fulfill a decisive role should we need to fight and win. Advanced capabilities delivered by our maritime, air, expeditionary, land, cyber, space, and special operation components enabled by advanced concepts with our allies and partners deliver peace and stability throughout the AOR. To effectively counter competitor's anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) strategy, USINDOPACOM requires joint capabilities that provide overmatch in the near, mid, and long-term.
Guam Defense System (GDS)
USINDOPACOM's priority mission is to defend the homeland. Establishing the GDS, a 360-degree, integrated air and missile defense on Guam, remains the highest priority. Funding for a single integrated weapon capability must be uninterrupted to provide an advanced, integrated, persistent, and enduring, layered defense against ballistic, cruise, and hypersonic missiles. This system must also be prepared to incorporate offensive capabilities as needed, and synchronize our logistics requirements from the island.
Decision superiority means the joint force can see, think, and fight faster than its adversaries. This requires an ability to operate in contested spaces, maintain persistent, all- domain battlespace awareness, and close kill chains with advanced munitions enabled by a Joint Fires Network.
To achieve decision superiority, the joint force must possess an ability to operate in contested spaces and deliver effects across multiple domains to deny, degrade, or defeat any threat. Our adversaries are developing and fielding A2/AD capabilities to constrain the U.S. military's ability to dominate all domains. To effectively deter our adversaries and counter any A2/AD strategy, USINDOPACOM requires joint warfighting capabilities in the near, mid, and long-term to ensure we can continue to operate our force anywhere we desire at the time and place of our choosing.
The joint force requires persistent, all-domain battlespace awareness through a suite of all domain sensors, distributed via a Persistent Targeting-Quality Common Operating Picture (PT-COP) to multiple nodes. An effective PT-COP requires exquisite intelligence to achieve its full potential. FISA Section 702 is a vital authority to keep our nation safe and will lapse on 31 December 2023 if not reauthorized. Section 702 allows targeted collection on the communications of our most critical foreign intelligence targets outside of the United States who use U.S. infrastructure and services to communicate. A lapse of Section 702 authority will have a significant detrimental effect on foreign intelligence collection specific to USINDOPACOM's mission and result in a decrease of battlespace awareness.
A final, critical component of decision superiority is an upgraded network of all- domain sensors linked to an integrated fires network with advanced weapons capable of engaging all threats in the battlespace. JFN provides decision superiority by fusing land, maritime, air, and space-based sensors with nationally derived information to provide target guidance over a resilient and adaptable information technology-based architecture. JFN allows geographically dispersed commanders to simultaneously share a common understanding of the battlespace, fed by sensors from any platform which can provide targeting guidance to any weapons system. JFN, coupled with the lethality of current and future munitions, underpins conventional deterrence and provides the joint force with the necessary lethality to maintain combat credibility.
Mission Partner Environment (MPE)
Combined warfighting interoperability requires rapid, widespread sharing of information with like-minded nations to operate with our joint force. The MPE modernizes 13 separate coalition command, control, communication, computer, and information technology (C4IT) network systems into a single cyber safe system to deliver combined command and control (C2) capability throughout the theater. USINDOPACOM's MPE provides a resilient, secure, interoperable digital architecture that supports all-domain operations, provides real- time intelligence, and allows all participants to share a common operational picture.
Integration of Space and Cyber Domains
Our competitors seek to challenge U.S. dominance in all domains, including space and cyber. To maintain our warfighting advantages, USINDOPACOM requires resilient and flexible space and cyber capabilities, and we continue to integrate these capabilities into activities and exercises with our allies and partners.
Enhanced Network of Allies and Partners
The U.S. network of allies and partners is our greatest asymmetric advantage, built upon shared values, mutual trust, and respect. Our alliances, multilateral arrangements, partnerships, friendships, and Five Eyes relationships are all essential components of this network and play an important role in regional security. USINDOPACOM continues to strengthen all layers through increased security cooperation, advanced training, and more complex, multilateral campaigning. These activities in turn increase interoperability, build capacity, and enhance our shared security while reinforcing the rules-based international order. We are deliberately building theater-wide capabilities through information sharing that strengthen our alliances and partnerships.
Five Treaty Alliances
The U.S.-Australia alliance has never been stronger or more vital to regional security. Australia is a critical ally and an important leader in international efforts to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. Similar to the United States, Australia communicates the importance of transparency and the maintenance of rules-based behavior and international law in its interactions with the PLA. Australia helps maintain regional and global security through U.N. sanctions enforcement against DPRK, and the hosting of U.S. forces.
Australia is increasing its collaboration across the region, building stronger relationships with India, Japan, and Indonesia. Australia's recently signed Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation with Japan, as well as its leadership in supporting the security and stability of Blue Pacific nations, exemplifies the country's priorities on collaboration.
Australia and the United States enjoy a robust relationship, and actively seek to deepen our partnership through military engagements, defense acquisitions, and force posture initiatives. The U.S. and Australia are working to enhance all-domain cooperation, integrate ranges, improve posture, and expand multilateral exercises across the theater. Australia and the United States have increased our cooperation throughout the Indo-Pacific, greatly improving our interoperability. Australia hosts the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D), and recently commenced deployment for its eleventh rotation through Northern Australia, demonstrating combined operational capability, to include two Bomber Task Forces.
The U.S. – Japan alliance remains the cornerstone of peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific Region. Japan's decision to significantly increase its defense budget will enhance the alliance's ability to deter conflict and set the example for other like-minded nations to defend the rules-based international order. Our nations are well aligned in our views of security challenges in the region, and in our efforts to deter conflict. To preserve our strategic alignment with Japan, we are working to complete the realignment of U.S. forces outlined in the DPRI.
At the January 2023 U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee meeting, our nations bilaterally announced the revision of the 2012 Roadmap for Realignment Implementation, which will transition the 12th Marine Regiment to the 12th Marine Littoral Regiment in Okinawa by 2025, optimizing alliance force posture.
The JSDF is highly capable and employs a large percentage of U.S. defense equipment, which is completely interoperable with U.S. forces. Additionally, Japan formally announced its decision to acquire defensive counterstrike capabilities and is currently looking at delivery platforms and munition options.
Japan is also a key security contributor in bilateral and multilateral efforts with partners across the region that support a free and open Indo-Pacific. In 2022, Japan signed a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation with Australia, and a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) with the U.K. to help facilitate military-to-military activities
Republic of Korea (ROK)
The U.S-ROK alliance has been the linchpin for maintaining a stable, security environment since 1953 and we remain ready to deter and respond to the DPRK regime's threats. A multinational, whole-of-government approach is required to effectively deter DPRK provocation and enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) sanctions.
The military-to-military relationship between the United States and the ROK remains steadfast, and the alliance continues to focus on maintaining military readiness and a combined defense posture suited to address the dynamic challenges on the Peninsula. The return of the Extended Deterrence Strategy and Consultation Group (EDSCG), return of major exercises on the Korean Peninsula, the first U.S. deployment of 5th generation fighter aircraft to the Korean Peninsula, and first U.S. aircraft carrier port visit to Korea in four years were positive demonstrations of U.S. commitment. USINDOPACOM is resolute in executing routine deployments of strategic assets to demonstrate the United States' unwavering extended deterrence commitment to the ROK.
At nearly $46.3 billion USD, the ROK's 2022 Ministry of National Defense budget is the ROK's largest defense budget ever, and reflects plans to restructure and modernize the ROK military and acquire the capabilities needed for wartime operational control (OPCON) transition. Progress continues to be made in meeting the bilaterally agreed upon conditions for OPCON transition and, once achieved, will yield a historic restructuring of the alliance and our combined defenses.
Republic of the Philippines
The Philippines is a strategic treaty ally, and our strong bilateral defense relationship is critical to our network of allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific. The United States is committed to continuing our persistent counter-terrorism efforts with the Philippines and is also increasing support for maritime security, a national security priority for the Philippines.
A U.S. firm, Cerberus, signed an asset purchase agreement in 2022 for the Hanjin Shipyard, now called Agila Subic, and finalized several lease agreements for the shipyard facilities. One of the agreements enables the Philippine Navy to use the shipyard and host U.S. ships for maintenance and voyage repair in this key strategic location.
We have made significant progress to improve interoperability of U.S. and Philippines forces through utilization and expansion of the EDCA. In April 2023, our governments announced four new EDCA sites. The EDCA expansion makes our alliance more resilient, and accelerates the modernization of our combined military capabilities.
This month, Balikatan 23 begins a three-week, annual, joint command and control exercise (C2X) and field training exercise (FTX) with humanitarian civic assistance events conducted in the Philippines. It features Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and U.S. forces exercising a mutual defense scenario with a focus on tactical interoperability. Its purpose is to demonstrate U.S. commitment to the 1951 U.S. - Philippine Mutual Defense Treaty.
Kingdom of Thailand
The U.S.-Thailand alliance, built upon a mutual interest in maintaining stability in Southeast Asia and throughout the region, continues to progress. The U.S. is working to build partner capacity in Thailand and support modernization of the Royal Thai Army, Navy, Air Force, and Special Operations Forces. USINDOPACOM supports Thailand's military modernization efforts to enhance Thai capacity and U.S.-Thai interoperability. Most notably, the United States is currently reviewing Thailand's request to purchase our most advanced fighter, the F-35.
Thailand is a critical partner for regional security and provides logistical nodes essential to U.S. military operations throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Efforts are underway to expand access to Utapao Air Base and additional new sites to support airfield dispersal, including Hat Yai and Nam Phong airfields.
Exercise COBRA GOLD (CG) has returned to full scale participation after reductions in previous years due to COVID-19. CG23 allowed us to improve the training and readiness of our forces by participating in a large multilateral exercise in Thailand. We expect CG to continue to expand in complexity and scale, as over 20 nations joined the exercise in an observer status this year. CG is the largest exercise in Southeast Asia, and highlights the multinational security architecture standing ready to meet future challenges.
The 2021 establishment of AUKUS (Australia, UK, and U.S.) intends to build upon longstanding bilateral ties through the establishment of a trilateral, security partnership based on defense capabilities that support our mutual national defense objectives. The first initiative under AUKUS Pillar I was to determine the Optimal Pathway to deliver a conventionally armed, nuclear-powered submarine capability to the Royal Australian Navy, which concluded and findings were formally announced on March 13, 2023. AUKUS Pillar II efforts focus on building trilateral capabilities in areas of shared interest including undersea warfare, cyber, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing to provide pivotal, future high-end warfighting and enhance our combined force posture.
The United States has strengthened our trilateral exercises and operations with Japan and the ROK to enhance interoperability, advance our intelligence sharing, and bolster efficient communication as we work to deter and respond to increasing DPRK provocations. Our ballistic missile defense exercises included detecting, tracking, and intercepting simulated targets. The U.S., Japan, and the ROK also participated in an integrated air and missile defense exercise with Canada and Australia off the coast of Hawaii, which included a live fire intercept of a short-range ballistic missile. Additionally, we increased our anti-submarine warfare exercises to improve interoperability against undersea threats.
The United States remains dedicated to the complete and verifiable denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, and USINDOPACOM will continue to focus on strong trilateral cooperation to this end.
The Quad, comprised of Japan, Australia, India, and the United States, is an important diplomatic partnership in the Indo-Pacific region. While not a military alliance, the Quad nations cooperate on advanced technologies, developing better infrastructure, and improving cybersecurity as a demonstration of how four mature democracies can favorably shape the security environment for the region. All four nations participate in exercise MALABAR to advance the collective planning, integration, and employment of advanced warfare tactics between nations.
The United States and India continue to strengthen our strategic and unique Major Defense Partner relationship based upon our shared vision for maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific and sustaining the rules-based international order. We are building an increasingly robust level of defense cooperation through exercises, information sharing, and efforts to establish greater co-development and co-production of military technology. With respect to the Line of Actual Control, we continue to support direct dialogue and the peaceful resolution of border disputes amid provocative Chinese behavior.
USINDOPACOM is cooperating with the Indian Navy on increasing maritime domain awareness, specifically in the underwater domain, in order to address the growing threats in the Indian Ocean. Furthermore, we are supporting the India Navy's Information Fusion Center- Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) with a Liaison officer to increase our information sharing. Our air domain cooperation is developing as B-1B Bombers participated in this year's AERO India and we look forward to participating in exercise COPE India as the bomber’s presence sends a strong signal regarding the growth of our bilateral relationship.
Exercises like TIGER TRIUMPH, COPE India, YUDH ABHYAS and MALABAR facilitate progress toward interoperability and enhance our information sharing as we increase the complexity and scope of our training.
USINDOPACOM also seeks to deepen cooperation under the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement to enable more regular and flexible reciprocal access in the Indian Ocean Region, to include U.S. ship repair in Indian yards. In August 2022, the USNS Charles Drew became the first U.S. Navy ship to conduct a mid-voyage repair in an Indian shipyard.
India is currently considering purchases of the F-21 (formerly F-16), F/A-18 Super Hornet, F-15EX Eagle, MQ-9B Guardian, and P-8I aircraft. In support of India's efforts to grow its defense industrial base, the Department has offered to explore proposals for co- production and co-development projects. These potential projects would support India's defense modernization and improve its capacity as a net security provider in the Indo- Pacific.
Singapore is a highly capable partner, providing critical support for our air and naval forces in the vicinity of the Strait of Malacca and South China Sea, anchoring our presence in Southeast Asia. Demonstrating incredible flexibility, Singapore supported a short-notice U.S. aircraft carrier port visit in July enabling required ship maintenance and crew rest. The Singapore Armed Forces use four continental U.S. locations for training and in 2019, we signed a non-binding MOU for Singapore to establish a permanent fighter detachment on Guam.
Singapore also supports regional and global security initiatives, including hosting a multinational maritime Information Fusion Center, as well as a regional Counterterrorism Information Facility (CTIF). The CTIF represents USINDOPACOM's first collaborative, operational partnership with regional states to use network analysis and multilayer analytics to identify terrorist threats.
USINDOPACOM looks forward to identifying opportunities to collaborate with Singapore's fourth uniformed service, the Digital and Intelligence Service, inaugurated in October 2022.
Developing Regional Partnerships
Mongolia engages with the United States and other like-minded nations as part of its "Third Neighbor Policy," to balance Russian and PRC influence by developing relationships with democratic nations. Mongolia is a dedicated partner in global Peacekeeping Operations (PKO). Through their extensive UN PKO contributions and deployments, the Mongolian Armed Forces (MAF) have gained significant operational experience and increased interoperability with the United States.
Our active defense relationship with Mongolia is a key component of the Strategic Partnership, and contributes to shaping the regional security environment. USINDOPACOM continues to assist MAF with their defense reform: enhancing UN PKO capabilities, improving HA/DR response, developing a professional military education program for officers and Noncommissioned Officers, and expanding their Special Operations Forces capability growth. USINDOPACOM also co-sponsors Mongolia's KHAAN QUEST, an annual, multinational exercise designed to promote regional peace and security.
U.S. policy on Taiwan remains unchanged. We will continue to uphold our support for Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities, consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act. Our support for Taiwan remains strong, principled, and in line with our one China policy, which is guided by commitments enumerated in the Taiwan Relations Act, the three U.S.- PRC Joint Communiques, and the Six Assurances. The United States will continue to support a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues, consistent with the interests and best wishes of the people on Taiwan. Our defense engagement with Taiwan helps ensure that Taiwan remains secure, confident, free from coercion, and able to engage in a peaceful and productive dialogue.
The United States' engagement with Southeast Asia and with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) strengthens relationships and conveys the United States' commitment to the region and building multilateral partnerships. ASEAN currently consists of ten member states and in November 2022, they agreed in-principle to admit Timor-Leste as the 11th member.
ASEAN is the most influential multilateral institution in the Indo-Pacific. We support the principle of ASEAN centrality and understand its importance to building trust, avoiding conflict, and reinforcing the rules-based international order.
We continue to express our concern over the PRC's pressure on ASEAN members to conclude negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea in a way that would impede lawful activities and undermine ASEAN parties’ ability to engage in governmental or economic activities with foreign partners of their choosing. At the 2022 U.S.- ASEAN Summit, President Biden announced the launch of the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. USINDOPACOM is integral to ASEAN's multilateral capacity building efforts and will continue to invest time and resources to enhance the U.S.-ASEAN Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The U.S.-Brunei defense relationship is very strong with an expanding level of military cooperation. Brunei seeks increased cooperation with USINDOPACOM, and 2022 saw the establishment of the first U.S.-Brunei Land Forces Talks.
In September 2022, Brunei approved the first multilateral training event to occur on Brunei soil. The U.K. Special Boat Service joined U.S. Navy SEALs and the Brunei Special Forces Regiment during Exercise NEPTUNE WARRIOR.
USINDOPACOM is collaborating with Brunei and deepening cooperation in mutually beneficial areas, to include enhancing maritime domain awareness. Brunei's Integrator UAS, a Direct Commercial Sales purchase, is now operationally capable. The system will bolster maritime domain awareness and border security. Brunei has received six Integrator UAS platforms, and will receive a final three early in 2023. Bilaterally, we incorporated UAS into our exercises for the first time in 2022 via PALAWAN WARRIOR and the Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT) Exercise.
The Department of Defense condemns the Burmese military's 2021 coup deposing the democratically elected government in Burma, and the detention of government officials, journalists, human rights activists, and members of civil society. The military uses brutal and excessive violence while continuing to restrict basic freedoms. USINDOPACOM does not engage with the Burmese military.
Russia has taken advantage of the coup to increase its long-standing engagement with the Burmese military, through high-level visits, military-to-military exchanges, and sustained weapons and equipment sales.
The fallout from the coup has stalled efforts by ASEAN to resolve the resulting political and humanitarian crises and has led ASEAN to downgrade Burma's attendance at high-level ASEAN events
In early 2017, Cambodia suspended all military-to-military exercises with the United States. USINDOPACOM continues to cooperate with Cambodia on humanitarian mine clearance and Missing-in-Action (MIA) personnel accounting.
USINDOPACOM holds serious concerns about the PRC's military presence and construction of facilities at Ream Naval Base in the Gulf of Thailand. While USINDOPACOM desires to engage military-to-military with Cambodia when and where policy allows, Cambodia's actions to limit democracy and its lack of transparency with regard to Ream Naval Base provide a weak foundation for rebuilding trust.
Indonesia occupies a key strategic position as regional leader and the third largest democracy in the world. Defense ties with Indonesia are strong. Indonesia is advancing its status as a regional maritime leader, increasing enforcement against illegal fishing and investing in defense articles to update and replace equipment.
Our exercise program continues to grow as demonstrated during GARUDA SHIELD 2023, the largest multilateral event to date designed to deliver joint and combined training. Future iterations will support Indonesia’s newly developed Joint Transformation Initiative and is likely to include more like-minded allies and partners. We have expanded the Joint Exercise Program to include GARUDA SHIELD and will continue to build partner capacity with the Indonesian military.
Laos is one of the least developed countries in the region, with the PRC owning about 50 percent of its external debt. Laos seeks balance between its traditional relationships with Vietnam, the PRC, and Russia, and is seeking stronger ties with other ASEAN members and regional partners.
Reconciling legacy of war issues remains a focal point in our relationship with Laos as we aim to resolve Unexploded Ordnance and Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) recovery issues by 2030. Laos repatriated two sets of remains in 2022.
The U.S.-Malaysia military-to-military relationship has steadily grown over the last decade. In recent years, Malaysia has transitioned the focus of its military towards external security, developing a viable coast guard, and improving maritime domain awareness through intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (JSR) capabilities. We support Malaysia's maritime domain awareness by providing capabilities that can be dual- purposed for use in Counter-Terrorism (CT) and Maritime Security (MARSEC) contexts. Since 2017, the United States has invested approximately $220 million in Maritime Security Initiative/Building Partner Capacity (MSI/BPC) programs in support of MARSEC objectives. During the 2022 CARAT exercise, Malaysia hosted 7th Fleet Sailors and Marines, and the Malaysian Armed Forces operated their newly acquired Link-16 ground stations with U.S. forces.
Timor-Leste is a geographically strategic country within the Second Island Chain and an emerging partner that welcomes expanded U.S. security cooperation. The 5-year, $23 million Baucau airfield joint rehabilitation effort will provide expanded access to the airfield in support of military exercises. Additionally, the MARSEC program opens doors for expanded access and presence.
\Timor-Leste was granted ASEAN special observer status in November 2022 and ASEAN has agreed in-principle to admit Timor-Leste as the 11th member of ASEAN.
Vietnam is a vocal supporter of adherence to international laws, freedom of navigation for all, and adherence to the rules-based international order in the South China Sea. The United States and Vietnam signed a Three Year Defense Cooperation Plan of Action for 2022-2024 as well as an updated Defense Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) Annex codifying new cooperation areas including defense trade, pilot training, cyber, and personnel accounting (POW/MIA)
Bangladesh is an important security partner to enhance regional stability. We are seeking to conclude a General Security of Military Information Agreement (GSOMIA) that will facilitate cooperation between the United States and Bangladesh on defense matters. Conclusion of the GSOMIA will advance opportunities for Bangladesh to access high-end U.S. military equipment and we are investigating other ways to strengthen security cooperation. This creates an opportunity to increase bilateral engagement in areas such as information sharing, military hardware, maritime security training, doctrine development, communications training, and joint planning and operations. Bangladesh has prioritized the development of maritime domain awareness capabilities and is seeking to modernize and diversify its military equipment.
Maldives is a valuable partner for the United States and an integral part of a free and open Indo-Pacific. In 2022, the Maldives National Defense Force (MNDF) sought increased engagement with the U.S. military and like-minded partners. Maldives co- hosted the 2022 USINDOPACOM Intel-Chiefs Conference, the USINDOPACOM Environmental Security Forum, and the Special Operations Command Tempest Wind exercise. Countering terrorism is an enduring area of mutual cooperation. In 2022, the MNDF affirmed they would participate in a trilateral CT exercise with the United States and the United Kingdom. Maldives also signed an arrangement with the Montana National Guard to join the State Partnership Program. The addition of a Deputy Security Cooperation Chief at U.S. Embassy Colombo dedicated for U.S. Mission Maldives will enhance this partnership even more.
The U.S. has a strong partnership with the Nepali Army and conducts a range of security cooperation activities focused on HA/DR, PKO, military professionalization, and border security. Nepal is a regional and global leader in U.N. PKO. USINDOPACOM supports the development of Nepal's PKO cadre through Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) funds provided by the Department of State.
USINDOPACOM seeks to ensure Sri Lanka is a capable regional partner with a professional military force supportive of the rules based international order. The Department of Defense continues to seek opportunities to expand exercises with Sri Lanka and encourages them to work with other like-minded nations to build partner capacity. Sri Lanka will host the FY23 USINDOPACOM Environmental Security Forum to identify areas of cooperation and security impacts of climate change. Sri Lanka’s recent announcement to reduce and restructure their Armed Forces suggests excellent opportunities for future security cooperation activities that focus on defense professionalization and building capacity in maritime security, HA/DR, and UN PKO.
In 2022, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States established the Partners in the Blue Pacific, an inclusive, informal coordination initiative that effectively supports the Pacific region. Our efforts are informed by the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, the Pacific Islands Forum's long-term strategy to achieve a free, safe, and prosperous region.
Blue Pacific cooperation is critical to a free and open Indo-Pacific, enabling coordination with allies and partners in the AOR through strategic sea lines of communication. Blue Pacific nations highlight the security impacts of climate change as the single greatest threat to their livelihoods, security, and well-being. Other security priorities for the Blue Pacific nations are countering illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, transnational crime, cybersecurity, maritime domain awareness, and drug trafficking.
The Freely Associated States (FAS)
The Freely Associated States of RMI, FSM, and Palau, are the cornerstone of the U.S. security architecture in Oceania, linking the United States with the Blue Pacific and Southeast Asia. RMI, FSM, and Palau have the highest military service per capita in the U.S. military, and make significant contributions to our operations. Our Compacts of Free Association (COFAs) agreements with the FAS, establish U.S. economic assistance for the FAS, and provide defense posture opportunities in the Indo-Pacific. Under the COFAs, the United States has full authority and responsibility for security and defense matters related to each of these three countries, including special and extensive access to operate in these territories and the ability to deny access to these three countries by any third country militaries. MOUs supporting the COFAs were signed with RMI, FSM, and Palau in early 2023. USINDOPACOM engages in military construction projects throughout the FAS to improve air and maritime infrastructure, enhance domain awareness, and support FAS efforts to protect their economic interests.
As a regional economic and defense leader, Fiji is integral to the security of the Southwest Pacific. We work with the Fijian forces through exercises, security cooperation, and activities with the Nevada National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP). Fiji's new training center, Blackrock, supports their U.N. PKO deployments across the globe. The Republic of Fiji Military Forces (RFMF) sent security forces in support of the Solomon Islands after riots in early 2022 and to the Sinai as members of the Multinational Force as well as other U.N. missions. Additionally the RFMF hosts USARPAC's multilateral exercise CARTWHEEL and will co-host the 2023 Chiefs of Defense Conference in Fiji.
New Zealand remains a steadfast partner and important leader in the Blue Pacific. The U.S.-New Zealand bilateral defense relationship is strong and continues to grow. In 2022, in coordination with our campaign plan, the RNZN HMNZS AOTEAROA participated in the RlMPAC exercise, conducted regional maritime patrols and Pacific Island engagements, and provided logistical support to U.S., U.K., Australian, and JMSDF vessels sailing throughout the region. New Zealand also augments the DPRK U.N. Security Council Resolution enforcement efforts by providing maritime patrol aircraft and personnel to staff the Enforcement Coordination Cell.
Papua New Guinea (PNG)
PNG is an important emerging partner for the United States, with a shared history dating back to World War II. USINDOPACOM is in discussions with PNG leadership regarding several significant posture initiatives that are contingent on the signing of a bilateral Defense Cooperation Agreement (DCA). Negotiations with PNG on a DCA and a ship rider agreement are currently underway.
Security cooperation initiatives in PNG, though limited in scope, are important to grow the capability of the PNG Defense Forces (PNGDF), strengthen security ties with its institutions, and assist in military development. USINDOPACOM is supporting State Department implementation of the strategy under the Global Fragility Act by providing disaster response and gender equity training to PNGDF. We also support the burgeoning relationship between the Wisconsin National Guard and PNGDF.
Tonga is a partner with a history of coalition participation and ties to the Nevada National Guard through the SPP. Defense engagement has returned to pre-COVID levels to build partner capacity. A leader in the region, Tonga hosted the 2022 Southwest Pacific Defense Minister's Meeting in November with senior defense delegations from Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, and France including observers from the U.S. and Japan.
Other Indo-Pacific Nations
Canada is a key Indo-Pacific ally and staunch supporter of the rules-based international order who deploys highly capable forces to the Pacific to support UNSCR enforcement efforts. To support the principle of sovereignty and uphold freedom of navigation rights, Canada executed combined Taiwan Strait Transits with the United States. Canada recently released its new Indo-Pacific Strategy aligned to the principles of like-minded nations to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. maintains defense cooperation activities in the Indo-Pacific with France, America's oldest ally. France has the largest EEZ in the region, including commands located in French Polynesia (FAPF), New Caledonia (FANC), and South Indian Ocean Zone (FAZOI). France is a pivotal contributor to regional security efforts such as protecting fisheries, building community resilience, countering transnational crimes including trans-Pacific narcotic trafficking, and HADR. With key leader engagements and multiple deployments to the theater, France is increasing interoperability with the United States and other key allies throughout the theater. Additionally, the French-led multilateral exercise MARARA included participation by Australia, France, Japan and the United States in Bora Bora in 2022. Last month, France held the third LA PEROUSE exercise in the Indian Ocean Region to enhance naval planning and operations, with participation from Australia, India, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. France also supports UNSCR sanction enforcement activities against North Korea. In 2022, France updated their Indo-Pacific Strategy to focus on increased cooperation with like-minded regional partners throughout the region.
United Kingdom (U.K.)
The U.K. remains committed to the region as a champion of the free and open Indo-Pacific. They continue to sustain a healthy defense posture in the region, having renewed the Brunei Garrison Agreement to maintain around 700 troops in the Sultanate since September 2019. In 2022, the U.K. continued its deployment of two Royal Navy offshore patrol vessels to the region through exercises in support of the Five Power Defense Arrangement (FPDA) with Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, and Singapore, as well as a multitude of other bilateral and multilateral Operations, Activities, and Investments (OAIs). The U.K. also signed a Reciprocal Access Agreement with Japan in 2022. USINDOPACOM continues to benefit from basing and access to the British Indian Ocean Territory at Diego Garcia.
Other Areas of Cooperation
Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Program
WPS is codified in law as a national security imperative, and USINDOPACOM is focused on WPS implementation. USINDOPACOM appreciates Congress' continued support of our WPS efforts. The command's WPS program is a unique and unmatched competitive advantage that promotes a free and open Indo-Pacific by upholding international human rights and the rules-based international order.
In 2022, we continued to expand our work to meet the growing appetite for WPS training, engagements, and integration of WPS concepts into existing activities. To support an upcoming PKO deployment, USINDOPACOM conducted two WPS seminars with the Mongolian Armed Forces as part of exercise KHAAN QUEST. USINDOPACOM supported several ASEAN events, engaging with diverse stakeholders focused on a human security approach. We have also increasingly focused on supporting WPS work with Blue Pacific partners including the development of a WPS National Action Plan in Fiji and are similarly looking to assist the Solomon Islands this year.
In August 2023, USINDOPACOM will deliver a 10-day regional Gender Advisor training in coordination with Australia, New Zealand, and Japan and will continue tailored WPS initiatives with the Pacific Islands countries, including a multi-year program for Papua New Guinea, as well as Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, and others.
Joint Task Force-Red Hill
In the last year, Secretary Austin tasked USINDOPACOM to establish Joint Task Force Red Hill in recognition of the imperative to safely and efficiently defuel the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility on Oahu. Through cooperation, openness, and transparency with the Environmental Protection Agency and the Hawaii Department of Health, we have made steady progress throughout the year. Our actions will continue to be guided by uncompromising commitments to the health and safety of the people of Hawaii, including our military families, protecting the natural environment, and accomplishing our assigned missions.
Security Impacts of Climate Change and Disaster Preparedness
The security impacts of climate change present a significant challenge to allies and partners in the USINDOPACOM AOR. Pacific nations frequently cite climate change as their top concern. Nations in Oceania, South, and Southeast Asia are particularly vulnerable to food security, water security, and agricultural productivity challenges exacerbated by extreme weather impacts.
Addressing these issues can strengthen relationships as we recognize their greatest concerns. The military's role in disaster preparedness and response builds trust and resilience throughout the region. The annual Pacific Partnership mission delivers medical, engineering, and HA/DR projects to address these critical challenges. During the Pacific Partnership 2022 mission, the USNS MERCY brought the Pacific Partnership team to see over 15,000 patients and complete 10 major construction projects in Vietnam, Palau, the Philippines, and Solomon Islands.
Understanding security impacts from sea level rise, temperature changes, and extreme storms is essential to long-term planning for U.S. operating locations in the Indo- Pacific region. USINDOPACOM is committed to reinforcing infrastructure, increasing resilience of its facilities, and assisting allies and partners to do the same.
In the last year, the global security environment dramatically changed. The PRC accelerated their whole-of-government assault against the rules-based international order and partnered with Russia to advance their goals. Strategic competition with the United States now encompasses all forms of national power across all domains. We see increasing efforts to drive wedges between the US and like-minded nations in an attempt to dominate the region.
Implementing the NDS in the near, mid, and long-term requires the United States to present a persistent, lethal, and integrated joint force west of the IDL that can deny adversary objectives while simultaneously demonstrating U.S. commitment and resolve to our allies and partners. Seize the Initiative is our approach, in support of the NDS, to deliver combat credible integrated deterrence by building a distributed force posture, improving our joint and combined operational campaign, advancing our warfighting capabilities and enhancing our network of allies and partners. To be successful, we all must execute with a sense of urgency.
I will continue to advocate for the most pressing and pertinent requirements in the near and mid-term, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of passing timely appropriations. The Department cannot move faster in the current year or adequately plan or execute programming in the FYDP without the resources to initiate new starts or properly sustain required programs. Continuing resolutions (CRs) result in cumulative and detrimental effects on our buying power, which are exacerbated by inflation, and add to the increased levels of operational risk.
Conflict in the INDOPACOM AOR is neither imminent, nor inevitable. Nevertheless, we do not have the luxury of time, we must act now to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.