Opening Statement by Ranking Member Reed at SASC Hearing on the Situation in the Korean Peninsula and U.S. Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Region
Mr. Chairman, I want to join you in welcoming the witnesses here today. I believe everyone here today is very concerned both about the rate of advancement of North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and the lack of progress on the diplomatic front.
Last October, I visited South Korea and the DMZ, and when I returned I gave a speech regarding my concerns about the national security challenges posed by North Korea and the importance of diplomacy. I laid out specific areas that I believed this Administration needed to work on to address this crisis. I am still quite concerned that we have made little or no progress in these areas and that we are not doing everything we need to set the right conditions for diplomacy with North Korea.
Our State Department is lacking critical personnel and we still do not have an ambassador to South Korea. The mixed messaging coming from the Administration is undermining what should be one consistent message to North Korea: that the United States will continue to exert maximum pressure, diplomatically and economically, until North Korea comes to the table and agrees to a negotiated solution and that the U.S. will only use military force as a last resort. And finally, our coordination with our allies and partners lacks the robustness and unity that I would have hoped for given the importance of this crisis.
I am also concerned that there is a lot of cavalier talk about war or limited strikes with North Korea. There is widespread agreement that a war with North Korea is not in our long-term interests. A war with North Korea will result in a tremendous loss of life, the likes of which we have not seen since World War II, and subsequent stabilization efforts will take years, possibly decades. It will costs the U.S. taxpayer billions of dollars, much more than the either the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. It will monopolize our military, diplomatic and financial resources, and leave us with limited options to position ourselves globally and take on other adversaries, including the long term threats from Russia and China, or address other crises. We will be in a worse position than we are right now.
We have never been very successful at divining the long term strategic impacts of going to war. There are a multitude of unintended consequences to every war, and this one would be no different. I think we owe it to the citizens of this country and our allies and partners to take a long hard look at the costs and risks associated with a war with North Korea. I hope our witnesses today can provide us with their expert views on the possible long term strategic impacts of that potential conflict.
And finally, I look forward to hearing how we should be positioning ourselves, both diplomatically and militarily, to engage in a long term containment and deterrence campaign with North Korea if diplomacy fails. Thank you and I look forward to hearing your testimony on these important issues.