Opening Statement (As Prepared)

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I wish to welcome each of our witnesses and to thank each of them for appearing today and for their service to the country.  

The Indo-Pacific region continues to be vitally important to our national interests, and the United States is committed to advancing a free and open Indo-Pacific.  As always, when addressing challenges in the region, U.S. efforts should be aimed at easing tensions, preserving peace, and upholding the international rules-based order in close coordination with allies and partners.  A secure and thriving Indo-Pacific is fundamental to regional and global prosperity.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) presents a considerable challenge.  Its willingness to act aggressively in contravention of international norms, coupled with its extensive efforts to modernize and to consolidate its control over the People’s Liberation Army, is cause for concern, and coercive actions orchestrated by the CCP undermine regional stability.

In meeting this challenge, we must remain clear-eyed and level-headed and build upon the United States’ strong policy foundation for deterring aggression and for competing on the strategic level with the CCP. Together, the National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy (NDS) provide the framework to “outcompete our strategic competitors” and “to sustain and strengthen U.S. deterrence, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the pacing challenge for the Department.”  It is important to emphasize that the NDS states: “Conflict with the PRC is neither inevitable nor desirable.”  It also provides: “The Department’s priorities support broader whole-of-government efforts to develop terms of interaction with the PRC that are favorable to our interests and values, while managing strategic competition and enabling the pursuit of cooperation on common challenges.”  The United States and China can coexist and prosper peaceably. Furthermore, the United States should consistently engage with China in constructive dialogue, especially when it may lessen the risk of escalation by miscalculation.

U.S. policy remains steadfast regarding Taiwan. The United States continues to support Taiwan’s self-defense capabilities in a manner consistent with the United States’ longstanding one-China policy and the Taiwan Relations Act.  With respect to the cross-strait situation specifically and to competing with the CCP generally, the United States should continue to implement a sound, multi-tool, deterrence strategy that affords every option for effectiveness.

Unfortunately, the potential for conflict on the Korean Peninsula persists, and North Korea continues to threaten the international community. The 2022 Nuclear Posture Review states that North Korea “poses a persistent threat and growing danger to the U.S. homeland and the Indo-Pacific region as it expands, diversifies, and improves its nuclear, ballistic missile, and non-nuclear capabilities, including its chemical weapon stockpile.” The United States must continue to apply a coherent, whole-of-government approach to containing this threat and to cooperate with allies and partners to deter North Korean aggression.

The United States must also continue to monitor Russian activities in the Indo-Pacific region.  Russian contempt for the international rules-based order is unbounded, and Russia’s military presence in the region warrants close attention.  Reports of collaboration between Russia and North Korea are also troubling.  Arms transfers from North Korea to Russia are exacerbating the harms inflicted by Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, and the potential for significant Russian support for North Korea could prove destabilizing to the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.  These and other shared security challenges require consistent vigilance.  

Strong relationships with allies and partners are crucial to addressing the region’s security challenges.  The Indo-Pacific includes five treaty allies and a diverse network of countries with whom the United States cooperates in productive and mutually beneficial partnerships.  The United States is actively working with allies and partners to develop capabilities and to reinforce posture and presence in the region.  For instance, the United States and India have reinforced cooperation on developing defense technologies and innovation, and the United States and the Philippines jointly announced an expanded application of the U.S.-Philippines Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement.  In addition, many cooperative efforts in the region are multilateral, as exemplified by: recent developments among the United States, the Republic of Korea, and Japan pursuant to the Trilateral Leaders’ Summit at Camp David; coordination on regional maritime domain awareness with the members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, including India, Japan, and Australia; and plans to develop interoperable capabilities among the parties to the AUKUS agreement, including Australia and the United Kingdom.  Allies and partners are committed to working with the United States in maintaining security across the region, and we must remain committed to advancing these relationships.  I am pleased that recent legislation has bolstered support for the AUKUS agreement and renewed our commitment to the Compact of Free Association states.

U.S. commitments in the Indo-Pacific region are augmented by the Pacific Deterrence Initiative (PDI) and other programs, which prioritize modernizing and strengthening the United States’ regional presence, improving infrastructure and readiness, and building the defense and security capabilities of allies and partners.  I welcome the opportunity to work with the Department to ensure that the necessary resources, including resources that have been requested for fiscal year 2025, are properly directed toward optimizing the contributions of PDI and other departmental efforts in the Indo-Pacific region.  

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I look forward to receiving the witnesses’ testimony.