2/12/2019 — 

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I also want to thank our witnesses for appearing today to provide an update on the security situation and U.S. military activities in your respective areas of responsibility.  Both of you are leading commands during very challenging times and we thank you for your continued service.  Please also extend our gratitude to the service men and women under your command for their outstanding service and dedication. 

I would first like to address the current situation on the Korean peninsula.  General Abrams, you have been in command now for approximately 90 days.  I look forward to hearing from you about the readiness of our forces and how you are mitigating the effects of the modification, suspension and cancellation of our joint exercises with Republic of Korea forces.  I am concerned that if we continue in this vein we will begin to experience a serious deterioration of the readiness of the joint forces.  While I acknowledge the suspension of exercises has created diplomatic space for negotiations with North Korea, I do not believe there has been sufficient progress on the denuclearization front to justify the reduction in readiness. 

I am also not optimistic that the upcoming second summit between President Trump and Kim Jung un will yield substantial gains in the denuclearization of North Korea.  For example, without a declaration of all nuclear and missile sites and programs, I do not think there will be a sufficient roadmap to move toward complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization.

I am also concerned that President Trump may consider withdrawing troops from the Korean peninsula as result of some agreement he reaches with North Korea.  That action would significantly undermine regional security and our ability to fulfill our treaty obligations to South Korea. 

The United States and South Korea recently concluded negotiations on the Special Measures Agreement in which South Korea agreed to substantially increase its financial support for our troops.  The Special Measures Agreement reflects how much of a share South Korea pays for the burden of housing our troops on the peninsula.  In addition to the Special Measures Agreement, South Korea has also spent approximately $10 billion to build Camp Humphreys, the largest overseas U.S. military base.  We need to acknowledge the extraordinary financial support South Korea provides to the alliance and continue to recognize that our alliances with Japan and South Korea are the cornerstone of regional security in the INDO-PACOM region.  At the end of the day, the preservation of our alliances is critical in countering the very real threats that we face from North Korea, and to counter China’s coercive activities in the region.

Now I would like to turn to you, Admiral Davidson.  While North Korea presents the immediate challenge to our forces in the region, China presents the most significant long-term strategic threat that this country faced in many years.  China’s Belt and Road Initiative has left several countries, notably Sri Lanka and Malaysia, severely indebted to China.  Beijing often targets corrupt local governments that personally profit from inflated loans, but leave their state treasuries bankrupt and beholden to President Xi’s administration.  It is an economic initiative with significant national security implications for the United States.

Countering Chinese aggression globally will require us to rely on our partners and allies to a greater degree in the decades to come.  Funding for programs like International Military Education and Training or IMET, and Foreign Military Financing or FMF, are crucial in the INDO-PACIFIC.  Bolstering the ability of key partners like Vietnam and the Philippines to monitor and defend their territorial waters through funding from the Indo-Pacific Maritime Security Initiative will create more regional security and stability and protect freedom of navigation for all nations in the region, regardless of size.  The United States needs to recognize the work of allies like Australia who are enabling small Pacific nation states in Oceania so they can counter China’s predatory economic behavior.  The United States must also continue its support of the states represented in the Compact of Free Association between the United States and Micronesia, Palau and the Marshall Islands.  It is clear that China is targeting these Pacific islands in an effort to increase its regional influence and diminish ours.

Admiral Davidson, we have not yet seen the President’s budget request, but I hope that it will align with the National Defense Strategy and reflect real DOD investments in the INDO-PACIFIC.  I also hope it reflects the resources needed for the whole of government approach that we need to counter China in the long run.  As the Commission on the National Defense Strategy noted, if we don’t ensure adequate funding for critical national security functions beyond the Department of Defense, the “United States will be at a competitive disadvantage and will remain ill-equipped to preserve its security and its global interests amid intensifying challenges.”   

I also have grave concerns about its repressive activities within its own borders.  President Xi’s brutal crackdown on the Uighurs in the west, and bellicose statements about Taiwan, present serious human rights problems for the international community.  As a global leader for human rights, the United States should never shy away from confronting the Chinese government for its brutal and systematic crackdown on ethnic minorities and human rights activists within its own borders.  We must also never lose focus on the fact that it is our values, especially our devotion to human rights and democratic principles, that resonates so well around the globe and enhances our military power.

Thanks again to our witnesses, and thank you, Mr. Chairman.